Ever since I learned what a raid even was, I wanted to raid. I went to great lengths to raid in my first real guild, Fated Heroes. Many people used Fated Heroes to level to 60 and then would bail and go to another guild to actually raid. At one point, I just flat-out asked the guild master why we weren’t raiding. Did we not want to raid?

Of course we wanted to raid, he said, but people just left as soon as they hit 60.

That’s when I started building the raiding culture of the guild. I did research on attunements, made that information available, helped people on quests leading to attunements and the like. By golly, I wanted to raid, so I was gonna raid!

Out of the seven years I played World of Warcraft, I spent six and a half of those years raiding, pretty much.

So, of course, having watched all the World of Warcraft BlizzCon panels from Friday, the biggest thing I want to discuss is, you guessed it, raiding.

Flex Takes Over, Heroic turns Mythical

There are two things I want to discuss here. The first is the flexible aspect of virtually any raid team going forward. The second is the new “mythical” raid type and size.

They’re renaming stuff and adding flexible raid sizes to things. Let’s look at how things look right now.

1) Looking for Raid/Raid Finder: Introduced in Patch 4.3, the Dragon Soul, LFR raiding is a group of 25 people put into the same raid wing via queueing. It is tuned for 25 people (2 tanks, 6 healers, 17 DPS), but it’s quite low on the tuning scale because they don’t assume that 25 different people from different realms, etc, are going to have the organizational abilities that a “normal” or “heroic” raid group does.

2) Flex Raiding: This is a new format, introduced in Patch 5.4. Flex is a difficulty that is below Normal raids but above LFR. It is tuned for 10-25 people and scales appropriately depending on the people in the group.

3) Normal Raiding: This is the “standard” difficulty level and, currently, is able to be tackled by two raid sizes: 10 or 25. It does not scale dynamically like Flex Raiding. Normal raids are also required to be completed by at least one member of a raid team that wishes to tackle current heroic raids. (Example: Your raid leader must have defeated Garrosh in Normal Siege of Orgrimmar to unlock heroic Siege of Orgrimmar for your group.)

4) Heroic Raiding: This is the “difficult” level of difficulty, which is also able to be completed either on 10 or 25, and nothing in between.

That’s how things stand right now. Technically, that’s 6 different raids: LFR, Flex, 10m normal, 25m normal, 10m heroic, 25m heroic.

In 6.0 (Warlords of Draenor), this is what they want to do:

1) Looking for Raid/Raid Finder: Same as LFR today, only flexible, meaning that if you’re waiting for six people to fill your LFR group after a wipe, you don’t actually need to wait — the encounter will have changed dynamically and you can just go with your 19 people.

2) Normal Raiding: This is what is currently known as “Flex” raiding, in terms of difficulty, it looks like. The size for this raid will be 10-25 people and will be flexible and dynamic. This is why they’re removing “flex” as a difficulty. Instead, they’re applying flexible raid technology to all difficulties of raiding. (Well, except one.)

3) Heroic Raiding: This is what is currently known as “normal” raiding, in terms of difficulty. Again, this raid size will be 10-25 people and will scale dynamically.

4) Mythic Raiding: Currently known as “heroic” raiding, Mythic raiding will be the “elite” raiding level. The raids will be tuned for 20 people and will not scale up or down, instead of the 25-man size raiders have been using since Burning Crusade.

To be honest, I’m still in a bit of shock.

What This Means

If your standard, 25-man heroic raid looked something like 2 tanks, 6 healers and 17 DPS, you’re now looking at something like 2 tanks, 5 healers and 13 DPS. How do I figure?

Well, you kind of need two tanks. I can’t imagine a scenario where just one tank is going to be required for everything.

6 healers divided by 25 raiders = 24%
20 raid members times 0.24 (percent) = 4.8 = 5 healers

17 DPS divided by 25 raiders = 68%
20 raid members times 0.68 (percent) = 13.6 DPS

Obviously, it’s not precise and I’m sure there will be times when you drop to 4 healers and go up to 14 DPS or maybe even drop a tank and go up another DPS, but, by and large, you’re looking at a 2/5/13 breakdown.

Many people expressed a sentiment along these lines on Twitter:

It’s an interesting problem that Blizzard is dealing with here, and they do not seem to have learned terribly much about the transition from 40-man raids to 25-man raids. Let’s look at this situation.

According to GuildOx, 77 total guilds (36 25m and 37 10m) have cleared Heroic Siege of Orgrimmar. 5612 of those have killed Heroic Immerseus, the first boss in the instance, with 831 25m and 4773 10m.

What this shows is that, after two months of the latest tier being out, over 5600 guilds are in heroic content. 831 of them have 5 people “too many” for Mythic raiding and 4773 guilds are missing 10 people off their roster to be able to do Mythic raiding. Mythic raiding, if it is actually intended to be the successor of current Heroic raiding, is going to be nightmarish for most of those 5600 guilds. Obviously, between now and launch (which is not yet announced, but my money is on June, 2014), guilds will split up, people will quit and all that jazz, but it’s clear that there’s a significant amount of people who would do Mythic raiding if it remained at the 10-man format, but they may not be able to do so at the 20-man format. And that’s JUST two months into a tier. Six months from now, those numbers will have gone up and more people will be trying heroic fights. If people want to maintain their 10-15 person roster AND challenge themselves with mythic content, uh, they can’t.

Oh my God, I’m worried about the viability of 10-man raiding. Who am I??? ;)

No, really, what I’m most concerned about is Blizzard’s statement about WoW being more fun with friends. That doesn’t work with their raiding plans for Mythic raids. It works great for people who want to do LFR, normals and heroics (in the new vernacular) but it completely falls apart for Mythic raids. Completely.

Check it out.

Say I have 32 raiders on my roster for a 25-man (present-day) heroic raiding team. Come Warlords of Draenor, I need to cut at least five, perhaps six, maybe even eight people from my roster.

If my breakdown above is pretty much on target (2 tanks, 5 healers, 13 DPS considered “standard”), then this is what I would want for a total roster:

- 2-3 tanks (2 tanks with one OS tank who is extremely comfortable either tanking or DPSing OR three tanks, all of whom can DPS if needed)
- 7 healers (or perhaps 6 healers with a solid OS healer who is extremely comfortable either healing or DPSing)
- 15-17 DPS

That’s like, 24-27 people or so on the total raiding roster in a guild that I would hypothetically be running. Too many more and swaps become a problem. Too few people and you start needing to have 95%+ attendance requirements.

So say I want to run with 3 tanks, 7 healers and 15 DPS on my roster. That’s 25. If I had 32 to start, that’s seven people to cut. How is that playing “with my friends”? I’ve just lost seven of them.

Conversely, if I’m coming from a 10m heroic raiding guild with, say, 2 tanks, 4 healers and 7 DPS, I now need to ADD at least 7, perhaps as many as 11 or 12 more people. How is that playing “with my friends” when I practically have to double my roster?

One might argue that the 25-man cast-offs may join up en masse with the 10-man guilds, but even if that happened, you’re still looking at a huge imbalance.

831 25m guilds have started heroic 25-man content today. 831 times 7 (the cast-offs, shall we say) gives us 5817 people who are potentially looking for a new home. Assume you need to add just the bare minimum of 7 people to those 4773 10m heroic raiding guilds to bring them up to 20. That’s only 831 10m guilds that are now capable of doing Mythic raids.

Know what that is? That’s crappy is what that is. In order to challenge yourself at the highest level of content, raiders are being told they must conform to the 20-man size, which screws over all current heroic raiding guilds. Even if this had just eliminated the 10s or the 25s in favour of one OR the other, at least some guilds would largely remain unaffected. However, Blizzard did not learn from their first attempt at changing raid sizes back in the Burning Crusade. Well, they did, but maybe not as much as they could have learned.

The Transition from 40-man to 25-man & 25-man to 20-man

Once upon a time, end-game raids consisted of 40 people. You had Molten Core, Onyxia’s Lair, Blackwing Lair, then the Temple of Ahn’Qiraj, then Naxxramas.

The devs recognized that putting together and organizing 40 people was, well, a logistical nightmare and, as such, lowered the required number of people to 25. Except, that’s not exactly what happened, because the first entry-level raid of the expansion was Karazhan, which was a ten-man raid. Raiding guilds, and I’m talking about successful raiding guilds who had progressed into Naxxramas at level 60, were cutting half their team and then had to split up the remnants into teams of 10 for the first bit of Burning Crusade! Ridiculous.

It doesn’t appear as though Blizzard is going to do something as ridiculous as making the entry-level raid a 10-man raid, but they are making similar mistakes to their transition from 40s to 25s with their change from 25s to 20s.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I basically grew up on 20-man raids. I loved Zul’Gurub. (I didn’t like AQ20 but that was more because I hate bugs.) I like the overall idea of 20-man raids and I remember the feel of them. They felt pretty great. Not as epic as 40-man raids, but not as tiny as 10-man raids. I think 20-mans are a good size, overall.

What Blizzard did back then was they broke away from the expectations that they, themselves, had set. “Serious” raids were 40-man affairs in World of Warcraft. ZG and AQ20 were often not even completed by well-progressed guilds because there was no incentive for them to do those instances, because they didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. All the serious raiders were finishing AQ40 and dipping their toes into Naxxramas at the end of the original World of Warcraft game.

With everyone knowing that raids were 40-man events, Blizzard changed everyone’s expectations and released raids that required 25 people for the majority of the expansion.

They introduced Karazhan as a 10-man, of course, but also brought in Zul’Aman as a 10-man raid later in the expansion. Then, in Wrath of the Lich King, they made 10-man versions of every raid, but they weren’t quite as “serious” as 25-man raids, because they were generally a bit easier and the reward (loot) was definitely not as powerful as the 25-man versions.

It was only in Cataclysm that both 10s and 25s were treated equally. That’s a long road for 10s, to be honest. First, they were almost non-existant barring a couple of raids in Burning Crusade, then they were accessible for each raid instance and finally, they were given equal rewards in Cataclysm. But you see how gradual it was? That’s spanning nearly four years. Four years for another raid size to gain full equality in terms of reward and even respect. (Do you respect Paragon for being the first 10m guild to kill heroic Garrosh? I do.)

But the trouble with the original drop from 40 to 25 is being replicated in the drop from 25 to 20 (and addition from 10 to 20!): it’s a rapid shift in expectations. Sure, we have something like eight or nine months to acclimate to the idea, but knowing what’s on the horizon, how are people in any heroic raiding guild going to keep motivated? 10s are going to need to scramble to recruit or even merge with other guilds, while people in 25s are going to be living in fear of getting the axe. And how screwed over must the 10s really feel after being validated just two expansions ago only to be told that, for the peak of PVE content, they need to double their rosters? Ugh.

The social repercussions of this kind of “unknown” factor is not going to be easy for people to deal with.

Fallout

What’s going to happen? Well, realistically, here’s what I think are our main possibilities:

1) 25-man heroic guilds will come through relatively well, despite social issues stemming from roster issues. The 20-man raid format will probably be a bit more popular than 25-man heroic raiding is today, perhaps another 10%-15% or so, I’d imagine.

2) 10-man heroic guilds will have a tough choice: either recruit like crazy, merge with another guild or just content themselves with the “new heroic” raids, which will probably be about the same (or slightly higher) difficulty as normal raiding is today. I do think this will bring the numbers of 10-mans down, but not so much that it’ll be really felt. Still, that’s going to suck. (Believe it or not, I really feel badly for the 10s. And I personally really hate that raid size. A lot.)

3) Everyone else will enjoy the flexibility of their raid sizes and will take advantage of them in “normal” and “heroic” raiding.

Since, according to GuildOx, nearly 22,000 guilds have killed normal-mode Immerseus, the vast majority of guilds are going to be just fine in terms of raiding the new normals and new heroics. If the new heroics are about the same level as current normals, 22,000 guilds can still go in with their flexible raid size and kick some ass.

This problem really only becomes a problem at the Mythic level of raiding. Looking at the numbers of guilds at least 1/16H compared to at least 1/16N on any size, we’re looking at about 25-26% of the raiding population that even bothers with heroics (within ~2 months of the launch of a tier — so that’ll go up, but I’m not sure how much).

So it’s not a problem that’s going to affect everyone. The flexibility of the other difficulties will be great for everyone, but the people who are, arguably, the most dedicated to the PVE end-game are getting screwed over. All the heroic raiding guilds will be experiencing a major roster change. All of them. Some will merge, some will disintegrate, some will stop raiding the content they want to be able to raid because they’re constrained by their size. All I know about this, really, is that I am super happy that I am not a guild master or guild officer right now. Good luck, people. ;)

Despite the fact I’m not in a position of authority, in the coming weeks, I’m going to be writing a free guide on how to deal with cutting people or recruiting/merging — basically, on how to manage your roster for a Mythic raiding guild. I learned a lot from the Burning Crusade change in raid size and from a lot of guilds that dropped to 10s from 25s. The important thing, for now, is to not panic. There’s still plenty of Tier 16 left, still several months left before Warlords of Draenor comes out. The best advice I can give to anyone right now is to remind your guildmates that WoD isn’t even in beta and that you’ll cross the roster bridge when you come to it, but for now, not to worry.

Heck, there’s even a chance that they’ll reconsider the single Mythic raid size because they’re not even in beta yet. (I doubt they’ll go back on that, but you never know.) If the Mythic size has you troubled, you should post on the forums (and be polite!!!) and explain why it troubles you and what repercussions you foresee it having on your guild. Get them feedback. Be nice about it. But ultimately, don’t hold your breath. The game is geared less towards the min-maxing 40-man raiders of yesterday and more towards the “raiders” of LFR these days.

More This Weekend

Sadly, Real-Life has crit me this weekend, so I’m not even able to watch BlizzCon events live. I’ll have more to talk about on Saturday evening or Sunday, including my thoughts on the Level 90 boost, my Outlands/Draenor thoughts and more.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts? How will the changes to the various raid difficulties and sizes affect you?