WoWWatch: Pruning it down.

Hear the music in the air?  That is the death knell of World of Warcraft – or at least that’s what many players have said this week.  These players started ordering up last rites for the game after a single developer post announced that 10-man and 25-man raids would share a raid timer and drop the same loot in Cataclysm.  The sorry prognosticators of WoW’s fate argue the changes will cause the death of 25-man raiding and with it the death of the game itself.  I am loathe to admit it, but these players are right…or at least half so.

25-man asteroids of doom!

So is 25-man raiding really on life-support?  Unfortunately, for those of you who play the game with 24 close friends, the answer is yes.  With a shared raid timer a decision will have to be made between raiding 10-man and 25-man mode every week, and it’s a lot easier to find 10 good players than 25 good players.  If 10 and 25-man modes of the instance drop the same loot why take the second tier of 15 players?  Why not go with the best 10?  The instance will be cleared faster, coordination of players will be easier, and progression will be more likely.  It’s going to take a pretty tight bond between 25 players to overcome the pressure to strip down to the 10 most talented.  Blizzard has added the caveat that the 25-man instances will drop more loot (I am assuming that is per capita) than the 10 man modes, but that seems more of a way of placating 25-man guilds than an incentive to keep 25-man modes viable in the future.  So just like the transition from Vanilla WoW to Burning Crusade, our guilds are going to be pruned down in anticipation of the coming expansion.

But does the pending transition from 25-man to 10-man really have to spell the doom of WoW?  I hate to always play the historian here, but this has happened before.  Remember when raids were 40 players?  Remember the announcement to move to a 25-man format?  The same doom and gloom warnings were heard all over the internet then too.  But a funny thing happened on the way to the funeral – WoW perked up and even flourished.  We didn’t realize until raids were trimmed to 25 that we had been fielding 20-25 skilled players and filling up to 40 with players that were only really capable of smashing their heads against the keyboard regularly.  Those same 10-15 people that died every other encounter were trimmed out of 25-man raiding.  The results of the pruning were remarkable.  Encounters began being more creative and challenging.  Dungeons began being tuned to skilled players and not the mixture of skilled players and space-fillers that we had grown accustomed to in Vanilla WoW.  At first the transition was rough. It was surprisingly hard to find 25 skilled players, but eventually it allowed for the design and implementation of more creative, challenging, and ultimately more enjoyable dungeons in Burning Crusade than we had seen in Vanilla WoW.

Arthas should have put his throne in a broom closet - we never would have lived through defile.

Soon 10-man raiding guilds will no longer be the red-headed-stepchildren of their larger 25-man counterparts.  And the change is long overdue.  Let’s face it. Despite the bravado and chest thumping of a 25-man encounter, how does it really differ from a 10-man?  In Icecrown Citadel, the difference in difficulty between a 25-man and 10-man encounter was entirely artificial.  The mechanics on the fights were essentially identical; there were just more players.  Positioning 15 more players is oftentimes the hardest transition between 25 and 10-man raids.  (Can you imagine taking 40 players to fight Arthas with defile?  Good luck).  Once that is accomplished 25-man raids were only really more difficult because you had to find 25 decent players, 15 more than a 10-man.

Prepare to have 15 players trimmed.

So what can we expect to see with our new streamlined 10-man guilds?  Between the sheer reduction in numbers and the introduction of the new guild leveling system, I think that players can expect to experience a significantly more closely knit guild environment.  The 10-15 players that raid together will know each other better and be more invested in each others’ successes than the 30-40 player guilds of the past. 

Perhaps less obvious is the role that dual spec will play in new 10 man encounters.  In a 25-man raid you can essentially field a raid with all classes all specs represented (Note: I know that would technically be 30 players but there are lots of classes that don’t really bring a different contribution to the raid depending on spec – hunters, warlocks, mages, I am looking at you).  In 10-man raiding no such luxury exists.  One fight you may need a resto druid, the next that player may be in owl form dpsing down a boss.  Similarly a paladin tanking one encounter may pass the reigns of tanking over to a warrior or druid on the next encounter to switch to a holy spec.  The limitation on numbers of raid members will introduce a new element of strategy to each encounter.  How do you spec your 10-man raid to maximize your potential to down each individual boss?  Players will have to be more flexible, they will need two specs, not an “off-spec” and a “main spec”.  The other huge change will be in terms of time commitment.  Right now, most serious players are essentially doubling their raiding time.  They spend half the week raiding in a 25-man group, half the week raiding in a 10-man group.  By merging the timers on 10 and 25-man raids Blizzard has given all of us an additional 5-10 hours during the week. 

So before you proclaim the death of raiding and the dissolution of WoW, give your new and improved 10-man raid a chance; you might even like it.


  1. I’m worried that the tightly knit 10 man guild that becomes the model for WoW socialization will be a detriment to the overall social interactions on the server.

    I would REALLY like to see an incentive to keep guilds large and have them field multiple 10 man raids. i.e. if your guild has multiple 10 man groups that clear ICC, everyone gets an additional frost badge each week.

    alternately they could play off the normal mode/heroic mode switching. They could allow 10 vs. 25 man mode switching in the instance. This would encourage guilds to stay larger so that on the ‘easier’ bosses more loot per capita drops and people are rewarded for maintaining in the larger social structure.

  2. @Sarc,
    I have read a blue post suggesting that they do plan on making it so you can switch the raid timer from 25 to 10 and visa-versa. However the problem with as you suggested bringing in more people for the ‘easier’ bosses is that you get 15 extra people locked into the same raid timer; creating some unneeded QQ-ing that could be eliminated if they just started their own timer (well at least 10 of them, but you get the point).

    Personally I prefer the structure of 10man groups better than 25man. In 25man you are kind of lost in the crowd, where as 10man groups are more tight-knit. As of right now my guild is planning on sticking to the 25man raids, but I feel a few weeks of little to no progression will probably change their minds, and create several 10man groups.

    On a side note, I think Tanks are going to be even more desired than they are currently. Most 10man raids require 2 tanks for each encounter, while 25man you usually need 3. If everyone switches to doing the 10man timers we will need more than double the amount of people playing a tank as we currently do. Healer requirements will pretty much stay the same, and dps slots will go down due to the increase in tanks. So there is a possibility that 25man raids will still be popular just for the fact that there aren’t enough tanks.

  3. Maybe it’s just the place i am in in my life right now, and comparatively things have changed for me. I used to spend way too much time playing this game. I don’t know, for me the problem with trimming down size is that now you have a bunch of elites playing the game to its potential, and then having a horde of casuals running around just filling out the background noise. Unfortunately, I am one of those not so great players, and here’s the problem for me, although I don’t want to be an elite player and don’t want to sink the effort into that, it seems like more and more there is no place for me in wow. My designated spot is in running LFD groups for xp or for badges, and then logging off.

    the fun for me in wow was having a bunch of friends online to screw around with. because things are more focused and targeted now, my favorite things are pretty much weeded out. the best times I had in wow were when my vanilla wow guild maxed out pve content and was waiting for the next encounter and we went to premade bg’s. or when we would would run drunken ZG. Or AQ20 runs for people who felt like doing it. Or trying out a hopelessly useless alt spec just for a change of pace. world dragons! the aq40 opening event. Linen bandage collection squad for AQ40 opening event. For me, I just don’t think that those things happen for me unless there are a ton of people in a guild to offer that opportunity. People I know in the real world and that I also know in the game sometimes are not the same people. In my own experience, the people I had the most fun with I got in touch with because we had stuff to do in the game, and there were enough of us that we could “hook up” with each other and mess around and have fun, and I don’t feel like that is as viable any more.

    Some of my close friends played in my original vanilla wow guild. but honestly in the game we were never that close. even though they were not the best people in the guild my favorites were people like Ashlyrn, Sarine, Dartanian, Gah, and Ashley. Longcut and Adeal. Arcane was always good for a laugh when he’d log on chomping down on some food and high as hell. Tits…will there ever be another tits?

    Nowadays do you run into Ray and Zhoufuri running a late night drunken ZG run and hop onto vent after coming back from doing something in the real world just for a few laughs? Is it just me or do these things happen less when you have less people around to do it, and when the content is designed around letting you do things with complete strangers you only hook up with for a targeted goal, like gearing up for top level content?

    The reason that I could find these people was because my guild was large, and you needed a large amount of people to field a raid, in my opinion. whether a confluence of personal factors and factors surrounding the development of the game, it just doesn’t feel that epic any more. for me, the social element is what made this game addictive and at the same time fun. but the more it goes on this feels more and more like something I can quit.

    just my two cents.

  4. For Sarc – I think the incentive that Blizz is offering for a 25-man raid is increased gear drops per capita. – meaning that if 2 epics drop for 10 man, maybe 6 drop for 25 man. I don’t know how this effects the social aspect of the game long term, but for logistical reasons I can’t believe that they would ever incorporate a 10/25 man swtich.

    For Eric – interesting point people don’t think much about, there are 2 tanks for a 10 man raid but only 3 for a 25 man raid – I like the 1/5 ratio more. Maybe more people will play develop tanking skills.

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