Without a doubt, Wrath of the Lich King has been an interesting expansion for World of Warcraft. Before it’s release, the appearance of Blizzard’s new buzz phrase became apparent “bring the player, not the class”. They decided to homogenize many classes, distributing previously unique raid buffs among others. This was met with a mixed response from the players. It made raid configurations much easier to deal with but many disliked that their class suddenly felt less unique. In addition to these changes came the vision of bringing raid content to more players. Blizzard wanted everyone to see the end game in some capacity. From their point of view, it made sense. Their are claims that a mere 1% of the player base saw Sunwell Plateaux in it’s original, pre-nerfed state. M’uru became known as the “guild killer” after many respectable guilds struggled to keep up the motivation while learning this unforgiving encounter. Blizzard stated there would not be another Sunwell and that they simply could not justify pooling such a large amount of resources into an instance that so few people enjoyed.
So, we come to the release of Wrath. From a raiding context, it was not a great release. Naxxramas was pitifully easy. Malygos was not much better. The Obsidian Sanctum, however, introduced a new concept to WoW raiding; hard modes. For the first time we had one instance, but different difficulties encased within and it seemed to work. Defeating Sartharian with his three guardian drakes alive kept many guilds occupied for some time. This new expansion brought about another change to our raiding content. While we had experienced ten man raiding before; we had Karazhan and Zul’Aman during The Burning Crusade, we hadn’t been offered it on quite such a scale. Suddenly Blizzard were conveying that all their raid content would have two different modes and thus was born the twenty five man instances and their ten man counter parts. There were multiple ways to view this change. Firstly, it allowed guilds to practice the strategies of a fight on a smaller scale before taking it to their main twenty five man raids. Secondly, it gave additional ways for people to gear up. Thirdly, it gave some of the faster clearing guilds more raid opportunities and many began doing ten man raids on off nights or after their main raids ended. Lastly and perhaps the least recognised, it gave smaller guilds the possibility of their own distinct progression path. Suddenly, rather than needing twenty five people to raid, you needed ten; a huge difference for a small group of friends. Furthermore, the “fluff” rewards from completing achievement sets were given to ten man raids too. Those smaller guilds could earn their own drakes.
Let us fast forward to September 2009. It was at this time that a progress tracking site announced what a small pocket of the raiding community had been waiting and hoping for. Guildox announced their intention to start tracking the progress of “ten man strict guilds”. To clarify, for the guilds that genuinely were ten man guilds, their efforts were to be recognised more officially with a ranking system to mirror that of the larger, more traditional guilds. At this point I wish to stress on behalf of the ten man strict guilds out there, how greatful we all are to guildox for this change. Finally we could have the thrill of racing for the EU first kills as well. Finally, we could get a taste of competition.
Guildox ranking system has brought with it problems however. To qualify for this ladder, you have to forgo twenty five man raiding completely. This in itself, is quite obvious. Ten man content can be (and often is) steam rolled by people in twenty five man gear. This restriction has more wide spread implications however. Firstly, where many guilds will have “social” members (people who maybe once raided and can no longer do so or the friends or family of full time raiders perhaps), ten man guilds are limited in this option. We can not afford to have people participate in twenty five man raids. If a member kills a boss in a twenty five man raid considered “current content” (for reference, at the time of writing this covers Icecrown, Trial of the Grand Crusader and will soon extend to the new Vault of Archevon boss), we get a flag. Collect too many of these and you are removed from the strict ten man ladder. Incidentally, removing the offending player from your roster will not remove the flag. It doesn’t end there however. We also have to be mindful of new recruits. Their kills travel with them. As an example, if we were to recruit a new member who has previously raided twenty five mans, his kills count against our record. This limits our potential recruitment base enormously. We primarily need either people who are coming from a ten man environment already or people who have not been at the forefront of PvE raiding for a while. Finally, for those of us who enjoy the achievement system in WoW, we can’t even join pugs to gain a few extra points. We’re totally limited on the achievements available to us if we wish to remain part of a ranked guild.
In addition to our shiny new rankings, Blizzard also began to notice strict ten man raiders in a fashion. New achievements appeared with Ulduar with the prerequisite that the players of a raid had to use gear of an appropriate level. “Herald of the Titans” was the first, albeit twenty five man guilds still had an advantage in being able to use the higher level gear sets from Ulduar. Trial of the Grand Crusader, on the other hand, brought with it “A Tribute to Dedicated Insanity”, the final hurdle in the ToGC achievements; clearing the instance with no deaths and in only ten man gear.
I was recently contacted by an officer in another ten man strict guild alerting me to a thread started on the official forums asking Blizzard for more recognition of ten man raiding as a viable progression route in WoW. There were many suggestions on how to encourage this but here I’ll focus on mine.
Firstly, lets look at the achievement system. Loathed by some, revered by others, it was another new addition in Wrath. Some people go to great lengths to try and receive as many achievement points as is possible. Most of the achievements are exactly duplicated between ten and twenty five man encounters so why not allow players to merely earn one set? By allowing twenty five man guilds to steam roll the ten man content, the value of most ten man raiding achievements is lowered. If you out gear your content, of course obtaining achievements will be easier and there is no way to distinguish whether someone used relevant level gear or merely waited for the encounter to become trivial. Naturally, achievements like dedicated insanity go some way to combating this. However, with our current ranking system, ten man players forgo the opportunity to gain many achievement points. Changing the achievement system would not prevent larger guilds from still doing the ten man content. They can still farm it for additional emblems. They can still utilise it to gear up new members and rerollers alike. They can still clear it on off nights as something to do but they would no longer diminish the value of the achievements earned by the genuine ten man guilds; the ones who combat this content with the correct level of gear.
Secondly, the loot tables need some addressing. As it stands now for my shaman, the best trinkets available to her are Muradin’s Spyglass (and Icecrown drop) and Eye of the Brood Mother. The latter is from ten man Ulduar. Admittedly, it was an amazing trinket and one sought by many raiders but it’s also from an instance released close to one year ago. Trial of the Crusader and Trial of the Grand Crusader brought with it some amazing trinkets on it’s twenty five man version. The Reign of the Unliving and Reign of the Dead are both incredible and they remain best in slot for casters at present. By comparison, in the ten man version of the instance, casters got the Talisman of Volatile Power a diabolical trinket that frankly, no one wants.
The “fluff” rewards are also questionable. The “Alone in the Darkness” achievement is still considered difficult and relatively few ten man strict guilds have completed this. For the few that complete this, they can look forward to the Vanquished Clutches of Yogg Saron; a trinket calls forth a Yogg style tentacle. For the twenty five man guilds? Mimiron’s Head; a very rare and very unique looking mount. I know which I would choose.
The trend continues in Trial of the Grand Crusader where a Tribute to Insanity on ten man will net you a Swift Alliance Steed. On twenty five man however, you earn a feat of strength and the entire raid receive Black Warhorse. We achieved our first insanity run back in November so, obviously, we’re still collecting mounts for our raiders….
(Image courtesy of Balance guild on Grim Batol (EU) – Visit them at http://balance-guild.eu/)
After all of this, you may ponder why then I chose ten man raiding. Most twenty five man guilds are plagued with a singular problem in regards to the skill level of their roster. You don’t have to be a genius to know that recruiting is hard. It doesn’t matter if you’re Ensidia or a guild that will never realistically see hard modes until you out gear them dramatically; recruiting is hard.
Many guilds form with that one holy grail of goals. “We want world firsts!” Some, of course, are just plain unrealistic and formed by people who lack the experience, skill and dedication for that. A percentage aren’t though. They have genuinely skilled and committed players at their core. Most guilds, however, have a group of players that are just down right poor.
Remember the days of Black Temple and Teron Gorefiend? How many of you remember begging to an invisible WoW God that “that” person doesn’t get constructs first? Later on in the fight, it wasn’t quite so bad if a poor player got them, providing the one before was competent. However if “that” player was first with the debuff, you knew it would be a wipe. Mount Hyjal saw players needing to click an item in their inventories to save them from the falling damage when Archimonde blasted them skywards. Fast forward to Sunwell and we had Felmyst with beams that required the player they focussed on to “kite” them away. The twins had the conflag ability that needed the targeted player to hop out of the raid and run a short distance so as not to blow everyone up.
The list is endless and most guilds would wipe over and over on these bosses, long after they had originally been learned purely because they all carry a number of sub-par players in their roster. What course of action do you take as a guild leader? You can remove your poorer players but this runs the risk of not being able to fill all your raid spots. Not raiding at all can then cost you the really skilled players you want to hold onto. You can keep recruiting, hope you find better and gradually bench the under performers. In my experience this is a never ending circle (and yes, I have been there) of “we know he’s not very good, but we can’t find better.. when we do, he’s out!”
The Advantages of Ten Man Raiding
This brings me to ten man raiding. There is a huge difference between the roster required to support a ten man guild than a twenty five man and it’s not just a numbers game. Ten people are easier to coordinate. It’s easier to accommodate the individual, real life commitments of ten people than of twenty five. What does this mean? In my opinion you can maintain higher standards.
A second aspect to consider is the social atmosphere of a guild. Most raiders will spend a vast amount of time with their fellow guild mates. For those at the cutting edge of content, they probably spend more time with them than their more tangible friends and family. Most people in a twenty five man guild can not claim, hand on heart, that they are friends with everyone in the guild. In all honesty, they might not even know everyone in their guild. A small twenty five man raiding guild probably holds around thirty two active members to ensure full raids every day. This number then scales upwards to some having hundreds, particularly when you included the social members. (Incidentally, “social” rank frequently makes me giggle when many of these members are people who stopped raiding years ago but still feel they have a claim to guild membership. The active members carry a guild forward and often these “social” members are anything but social! They are normally remembered by one or two very old members while everyone else wonders who on earth they are and why they are still guilded. Rant over and normal transmission resuming). In a ten man guild, you will know everyone you raid with. Most of these guilds seem to have around twelve to fifteen active raiders. You may end up knowing them more than you ever wanted 😉 It is easy to feel like you’re drowning in some larger guilds. You’re one of many representatives of your class. Some guilds have to rotate players a lot. A feeling of “not making a difference” can develop where you get a sense that if you left, it wouldn’t be a huge deal. Not so in ten man raiding. With these smaller guilds you genuinely are a person and not just a class.
A third aspect which doesn’t apply to myself but is worth mentioning is the technical requirements of raiding. For some people, twenty five man raiding is unrealistic (or maybe even impossible) on their PCs. A large portion of the WoW player base are younger people and a lot are students. For the people who suffer FPS too low to perform in twenty five man raids, you have a significantly higher chance of being able to do so in ten mans.
Finally comes the loot. Obviously, ten man loot is a scaled down version of it’s twenty five man counterparts. This is relative though, our encounters are scaled down versions of their counterparts too. Due to itemisation not always being great, some ten man heroic items have been best in slot in the past. We earn emblems slower than the larger guilds certainly, but we share our loot with nine other people in the raid. Depending on our rosters, you are likely to be the only class-spec combination in your entire guild. Naturally in the case of many items, multiple classes will want them but never the less, we have to wait less time. In addition, we can build offspec sets much faster (we often get the variety of playing those offspecs more also).
There we have it. What began as a random thought for the evening turned into a rather epic post encompassing the pros and cons of ten man raiding. While there is no doubt that it wouldn’t suit everyone, for some people it is perfect. I also hope this makes others realise that we’re not the “scrub raiders” of the PvE scene. We’re not all guilds that fail at building twenty five man rosters. Some of us are genuinely passionate about this raiding route. While the encounters and achievements may seem easier to many eyes, done with the appropriate level of gear, they are not. At present, there is a healthy amount of ten man strict raiding guilds appearing and racing for the EU first kills in Icecrown. I wish the best to all our competition and sincerely hope that Cataclysm brings more recognition to ten man raiding as a viable PvE progression path. Finally, to Blizzard, you wanted to open up raiding content to more people. Ten man raids are the perfect way to facilitate this, if only you would give them a little more support and recognition as opposed to letting the larger guilds stomp all over our accomplishments with their higher level gear.