Soapbox time again guys!
I am a very competitive person. I'm very proud of our guild's #1 spot on our server, and excited to see what happens come Ulduar, and how strong the competition against us will be. While I am very confident in our ability to hold that position, I try not to become complacent; Naxx wasn't exactly a challenge and things may be different when we all take off from the same starting line, rather than level 80s slowly trickling in and guilds beginning to raid at different times. I'm looking forward to a race.
Anyway.. I'll just come right out and say it. I may need to duck the flying tomatoes for saying this, but here goes.
25 man raids should be harder, more rewarding, and seen as more of an achievement than 10 man raids.
Wait, let me explain..
10 man raiders are people too
First, let me say that I agree that 10 mans should be challenging - I do not consider 10-man guilds to be less skilled in any way. Those raids should provide a challenge to people who can't run 25 man raids (or simply prefer 10s). And 10 man progression should be recognised as such; I have been in 10 man guilds and those boss kills were just as important to us as any hardcore guild's kills. I just want to be super clear that I'm not saying 10 mans are bad in any way, or that people who choose to run them are not as skilled as 25 man raiders.
But what really bugs me is when 10 man content is considered harder and therefore more of an achievement. That a 10 man fight should be tacked onto the end of all of the 25 man boss kills in order to say that you have actually "finished all endgame content."
I'm talking about 10 man Sartharion, of course.
I just.. don't want to do 10 man raids.
I've definitely enjoyed the challenge of Sarth10 these few weeks.. but aside from being something interesting to do, I don't really care about getting it done. 10 man raids, to me, are for fun, badges, something to do, and perhaps a gear stepping stone. They are a means to an end. Obviously to other people they are their "end game" and I'm not knocking that, definitely not. But as a hardcore 25man raider, 10 mans are not end game for me.
People have knocked me for not having Undying yet. But if they actually asked (or if they checked the Armory), they would find that I've done Naxx10 five whole times (plus two times I subbed in to help out for a few bosses). I do it specifically to help guildies out, but I always prefer not to do it. I've picked up a few 10 man achievements here and there, but I have no drive to go in and finish them off anytime soon.
I just don't care about 10 mans. To me, they are a side endeavour, a hobby, something to do casually - whereas 25 man raids are what I'm really here for.
So it really annoys me that I should feel obliged (yes, obliged) to take a step backwards into 10 mans to complete a fight that is seen as the hardest fight in the game. I feel that if I don't have this notch on my belt, I am in some way inferior to other 25 man guilds who have killed the same 25 man content but also added this 10 man fight to their resume. Basically, you can't claim that you A) have finished the game and B) you're a top raiding guild unless you step out of your 25 man raiding and go do this 10 man. And to a lesser extent, you need to go do 6min Malygos(5min pre-patch) and the Immortal, too. Then you're really finished. Properly.
It doesn't matter if you have zero interest in 10 mans (as I do). If you haven't done this fight, you're not such a great raiding guild after all. You can't claim to have finished everything, so don't even try to say you have!
A smaller margin of error, a more challenging fight
There are plenty of arguments out there that 10 man should be just as hard (and just as rewarding, gear-wise) as 25 mans. It seems a popular view (and it makes sense) that 10 mans leave less room for error, as well as giving far less flexibility in terms of group makeup and buffs, meaning that things can be more challenging. You can't afford to have slackers because everyone has to perform. There's probably room for underachievers more in a 25 man because a couple of people dragging their feet in a large group will have little effect compared to in a 10 man.
10man Sartharion with drakes is definitely much, much harder than the 25man version - because everyone has to perform at 300% capacity for nearly 15 minutes straight, and the slightest slip will cost you the attempt. It's crazy stuff (and definitely very rewarding).
But I just can't help feeling that it is really wrong for smaller raids to be seen as a bigger achievement than 25 mans.
Worse though, that I should feel obliged to do these 10 man fights and achievements to prove myself and my guild, even if I have absolutely no interest in 10 man raiding, because if I don't, I can't claim to be as progressed as I'm supposed to be. Finishing 10 man content to prove myself as a 25 man raider. lolwut?
QQ, my beautiful linear progression
Server progression used to be black and white. Here's a list of bosses, and here's a list of who has killed them - done. The top guild is the one who has killed the newest boss first. Recognition goes to the guilds who kill the bosses generally seen as the big milestones; the Ragnaroses, C'thuns, Vashjes, Archimondes, Illidans and Kil'Jaedens of the world. And now, Sartharion with drakes. It's pretty simple. You kill a boss before anyone else, you're the new leader (until someone beats you to another boss sometime).
Delicious linear progression. Om nom nom nom.
But if 10 man bosses are seen as harder than some of the 25 mans, where does that leave progression ratings? Do we make up our own rankings based on subjectivity and whatever people generally consider to be the harder content, regardless of group size or Tier number?
We saw a little of this kind of problem after changes were made to allow guilds to progress to BT without having to kill Vashj and Kael. The progression lists were suddenly thrown into turmoil as their caretakers tried to work out how to rate guilds who had killed the first couple of (easy) bosses in BT (a Tier 6 instance), but never killed Vashj or Kael (Tier 5 bosses), who were considered the most challenging bosses at the time. People could choose to skip the hardest encounters of lower tiers and go straight into the easier encounters of higher tiers.... and nobody knew how to rate them easily. They had to make up some kind of arbitrary scale of which bosses they considered harder, ignoring where they were "supposed to be" in progression ladders.
Vashj & Kael: in the Too Hard Basket
But my beef isn't so much with skipping content - it's about having to step outside of 25 man raiding for "progression" because a 10 man fight is perceived (in this case, correctly) to be harder and thus a step ahead of the 25 man version.
I won't go so far as to call it a "trend" yet, but if 10 mans do continue to give as much or more of a challenge and a greater victory than 25 man raiding, how will we rank guilds in the future?
Hard modes - here to stay
Preliminary Ulduar info is out. 14 bosses, 11 hard modes. Hard modes are things like Sartharion with X drakes up; the example they've given so far is the Flame Leviathan, which has defense towers that you can either kill to make things easier, or leave them up. The concept is very similar to Sartharion with drakes - depending on the number of drakes/towers you have up, the fight changes in difficulty and rewards different loot.
So it would seem that we will now have 11 more Sartharion with drake/s fights (basically). That's pretty exciting - so far it has been a case of "clear Naxx, work on killing Sarth with 1/2/3 drakes....... now um.... farm until Ulduar." On the other hand, it sounds like Ulduar will keep us busy for a long, long time because almost all of the bosses are Sarth-style encounters with optional challenges.
But the question is: will the 10 man "hard mode" fights be harder than 25 man?
Sarth3D on 10 man is the hardest fight in the game at the moment because it requires precise raid stacking, huge dps, and every single person to perform perfectly. On 25 man it's still a huge challenge, but when you switch to the 10 man version, 25 man seems like you could watch TV or eat a sandwich while you do it. I don't think Blizzard is trying to make 10 man the bigger challenge, but since you're really limited in how much you can "stack" your raid, not to mention the dps requirements, that's just how it's turned out.
Will Ulduar 10 man hard modes be the same?
I'm going to guess that they will. Not deliberately; not because Blizzard necessarily wants them to be the better challenge, but because they just require a much tighter raid than 25man, and are therefore more of a challenge by default. And that puts them higher on the subjective progression chart.
10man Sartharion+3: a bump in the 25man road
I'm sure to a lot of people, this is a very trivial thing. But to hardcore, competitive raiders such as myself, we need to be able to see where we sit. Who the competition is. How close the race is and how hot the other guilds' breath is on our necks. It was hard enough in Tier 6 content when early Hyjal and early BT were basically parallel and it was difficult to say who was leading when one guild chose to start in BT and the other chose to work on Hyjal. Why can't things move in a straight line...
I like to know where we stand. Exactly where. It's a big deal. And having extra stuff like hard modes, 10 man fights and achievements (while fun and challenging) makes it much harder to know where you sit on that ladder.
I had hoped that 10 man Sartharion was a blip; that this kind of thing wouldn't happen again, but more and more I am thinking that perhaps this is the way things are going to be from now on - that Blizzard will make 10 mans as challenging, if not more, than 25 mans (whether deliberately or not). 10 mans are easier to fill, and are accessible for more people. Obviously it is a good business decision for Blizzard to allow more people to raid and have this challenge. Hardcore raiders are far outnumbered by the more casual raiders who want to see the raids, and it would be dumb for Blizzard to cater more for 25 man raiders rather than their larger casual customer base.
I love large raids. It makes me sad though, to think that large raids might no longer by the pinnacle of raiding, that 25 man bosses might no longer be the real barometer for server progression, and that 10 mans and achievements will become a necessary part of the 25 man progression ladder.
Dammit, I want my linear progression back.