10 man raiding: then and now.
Watching the shift in opinions regarding the difficulty of ten-man content is rather amusing for a former 10-strict guild to watch. As one of the few (and I mean literally, 3) guilds in the world to have gotten a 10-strict kill on HLK in WotLK, the end boss of the expansion, Vortex has watched with some smug delight as other guilds flocked to the 10-man format out of an assumption that it would be easier, only to find it far more difficult than they had expected and watching as 25-man guilds progressed more quickly.
Could 10s have been easier in this expansion? Possibly, depending on the tuning of the bosses.
The vast majority of raiders (and I'm talking those that probably never read this blog or followed ten-strict guilds) had it stuck in their heads that 10s were easy, and had no concept of the relative difficulty. In WotLK they had higher iLevel gear, and that mana and stamina and through-put matter. They had larger raiding rosters to pull from, cherry-picking their compositions for the harder fights. They had less room to spread out, but AoE heals weren't 40 yards in range so even 10's had to cluster up and stick together to a decent extent. The easier aspect came on the management front as there were fewer people to herd in 10s, though recruitment was a PitA.
Now, there are still fewer cats to herd in Cata 10s, but normalization of difficulty levels has ironically been in favor of 25s. I have to wonder if it's intentional, in an effort to keep 25mans viable. This doesn't really bother me: 10-strict was a very difficult format, and I am proud to say my guild is stubborn enough to tackle anything Blizz throws at us, though we may not necessarily be the first to down the content. So the concept that 25s are easier difficulty doesn't really phase me except out of some irony, in the form of "told you so" to those who doubted the difficulty of tens.
The difficulty currently lays as such:
- Composition. In spite of buff and class homogenization, there is a definite disparity in what is "needed" for a raid to excel through the current content, favoring certain mixes of classes and a LOT of interrupts. Going to Cho'Gall without a hunter? Good luck. One of your interrupters out for the evening? Scramble for Nefarian. No warrior? Add-tanking in multiple fights will be entertaining, if hell. Two resto druids out of 3 healers? ....lol, your hots won't tick up fast enough to counter a lot of raid-heal mechanics and your cooldowns don't come up fast enough, have fun wiping. No resistance aura? HAHAHAA. On a related note, I feel bad for rogues. They are the only class my guild has looked at and said "we just really don't need one."
- Loot Drops. Most 10m guilds I have talked with or read about have complained about never seeing certain drops. For Vortex, it is the trash-drop wand and the leather caster bracers. Out of two pieces and 10 players, there is less chance of it being something useful than with 25s. Guilds will shard the same drops off a boss week after week, the two drops always seeming to land on the same pieces. If something useful drops, there's a chance the person that needs it either isn't present that day or got rotated out due to compositional issues: something for the guild to plan around, certainly, but I have seen it happen often enough to remember. I will complain less about having only seen the feral bracers/boots/staff once or twice, as it means our mainspec feral has gotten them, but looking at blues in my offspec set is getting tiresome. Granted, I find it amusing that some of my feral upgrades have been straight jumps from blues to heroic-mode epics. It would be nice if the 'randomness' of the drops was twisted to rotate through the item table a bit more reliably, ensuring a more even spread of gear: some randomness is fine, but a bit more variety is also appreciated. Loot matters in progression. The drops can easily determine the rankings: an upgrade for a raider is worth more to the next boss kill than a shard.
- Recruitment. There are more guilds, plainly speaking. It makes looking for a guild harder, as there are more to sift through. It makes advertising for your own guild harder, as you have to shine out from the swarm. There are a lot of excellent guilds, but there are also many that a recruit may find is crumbling as soon as they join. The guild/raid leader may have expected things to be easier than they are, and are struggling to make things work. Raiders may be disillusioned by progression or loot drops, or even the lack of community as a 10-man guild is smaller than the large communities they knew in WotLK or further back. The 10m guild loosing one player--and it is bound to happen--can leave you short on raid nights, and often you may loose multiple at the same time for various reasons. A death spiral if you can't fill those spots.
- Hybrid requirements. This is the ultimate reason why we've not considered a rogue, as melee is generally being given the middle finger by boss mechanics: any melee we do get are all hybrids that will swap either to tank or heal on a given fight (cat/bear, unholy/blood, and ret/holy are our melee dps, excluding our two main tanks. Oh, and this crazy girl who is resto/bear and sometimes moonlights as a cat). With a smaller team, flexibility is very important, and that makes hybrids quite necessary. A healer/healer spec is less flexible than a healer/dps dualspec. On top of being able to spec for it, there is also the issue of knowing how to play it: someone who is used to healing is not going to have the UI and reflexes for reliable interrupts, in most cases (I am a prime example of that on H-Halfus when they had me tanking the fight as offspec!). Where a larger guild can support players who stick to one single role, a 10m requires most of its players to fluctuate between roles as hybrids, and this shows in recruitment.