Last week, I received an email asking me for my thoughts on raid size in Cataclysm. As it turns out, I have quite a few thoughts -- three columns' worth, in fact, covering four different categories: gameplay, logistics, rewards and intangibles. My goal is to help officers and their guild members to choose which raid size is best suited for their guild. A week ago, I wrote about the gameplay category.
This week's column will cover two topics that have been linked together throughout the history of the game. From the very beginning of WoW, Blizzard has made a connection between more difficult logistics and greater rewards. Molten Core, Onyxia, and later 40-man raids rewarded the best available gear in their respective heydays. Throughout The Burning Crusade and Wrath, 25-man content yielded the best items. For Cataclysm, this paradigm is shifting.
Let's take a look at the logistics involved with the two raid sizes and the rewards that each size offers.
- A 25-man raid requires an intense recruiting effort. A large and diverse roster is essential to field a 25-man consistently from week to week. There will almost always be a player or two who is unable to attend any given raid. Also, there's almost always a spec or a role that you need more of in order to ensure a well-balanced raid, so rarely do you get to relax your recruiting efforts. For a 10-man guild, on the other hand, you can get away with carrying just a few extra raiders. Once you reach a certain point at which you have enough dependable players, you can stop recruiting. If you're starting a guild from scratch, you're probably going to have to settle for 10-mans at first before you can build up to 25-man raids. Finding so many solid raiders is never an easy task.
- "Cat herding" is flat-out easier in 10-man raids. There can be little debate on this issue. Getting 10 people to show up on time and follow instructions is easier to do when you have fewer people to worry about.
- More raiders means more attendance and technical issues. In a 10-man, you have 15 fewer people who unexpectedly have to take a sick dog to the vet or entertain family from out of town. You have 15 fewer people who might have trouble logging in, experience weird addon problems, or DC during a boss fight. Such issues can lead to canceled raids, long mid-raid delays, or frustrating wipes. And the more raiders you're counting on, the more likely it is that some of them are going to disappoint you, hold you up, or make your night miserable.
- Subbing is easier in a larger raid. To counterbalance the previous point, it is generally easier to substitute players when you're working with a larger raid size. There are a few reasons for this. For one thing, if your raiders are using dual specs, then there's almost always someone who can switch roles to replace the person subbing out, if necessary. Another reason is that a larger raid depends less on each individual's performance. If you're swapping a player who does 8,000 DPS for one who does 6,000, that's easier to manage when the DPSer is one of 17 as opposed to one of six. Finally, larger raids are more likely to have multiple people who know how to perform specialized actions, such as using the Magnetic Core against Mimiron in phase 3 or "driving" the abomination against Professor Putricide.
- Scheduling difficulties are easier to manage with more players. The common thinking here would suggest the opposite, but I find that scheduling for fewer people actually creates more problems. The problem with the smaller raid size, especially if you have a tight-knit team, is that each person is so crucial. And because those players know that they're crucial, each one expects you to schedule around their own conflicts. Finding open nights for 25 players can sometimes be more difficult, but with a larger pool of players, it is easier to say, "This is the best night for the most people, so we all have to adjust" -- and get away with it. You're also less likely to cancel a raid due to one or two players' being unable to attend, because it's expected. In a 10, if two of your three tanks are /afk for the night, your raid is toast.
- Loot is easier to distribute in 10-man. Again, it's hard to argue against this. There are fewer items to give away and fewer people interested in each one. Even if you use a complex system such as EPGP, you still have fewer players to track within that system.
- 25-man bosses are worth more valor points. According to Blizzard, 25-man bosses will be worth 105 valor points, compared to 75 in 10-man. Due to the weekly point cap, however, players who raid either size can still earn the same amount of points per week. Those who raid 10-man will be required to run a few extra daily heroics to reach the cap. For players who don't have much time to play outside of raids, larger groups will allow them to gear up faster.
- Normal 10s offer the same amount of items per player. In the April raiding announcement posted by Nethaera, she wrote, "25-player versions will drop a higher quantity of loot per player (items, but also badges, and even gold)." However, this is not currently the case in beta. Bosses in 10-man drop two items, or one item for every five players. Bosses in 25-man raids drop five items, or one item for every five players. The ratio is currently the same. However ...
- Heroic 25s will drop more items per player than Heroic 10s. I don't think this fact is widely known, but Ghostcrawler said exactly this back in June, and I haven't heard anything to contradict it since. If your guild plans to tackle heroic bosses, then there will be more loot to go around per player if you're raiding at the larger size. We don't know the exact numbers yet, but with heroic raid testing happening in the beta, we should find out soon.
- Fewer items will be sharded in 25s. Although the same ratio of items will drop in either size at normal difficulty, larger raids will be able to put more of those items to use. In 10s, you simply can't have every spec represented there, even if you count dual specs. In most cases, you probably won't even have every class represented. Larger raids will usually be able to field at least one player from each class. If you count dual specs, such a raid will generally have someone who can make good use of every item, at least for the few first months until the instance is farmed out. This issue is somewhat alleviated by the elimination of spec-specific stats like armor penetration and defense, but given the new armor specialization bonuses, I'd say the sharding issue will be worse, not better, in the expansion.
- Legendary items should be available for both sizes. In the same thread I linked above, Ghostcrawler confirmed that legendaries will be available in both 10s and 25s, unlike today. This intention was reiterated at the open Q&A at BlizzCon 2010.
- Achievements are equivalent. No distinction exists for either raid size as far as achievements are concerned, so players will earn the same achievements and achievement rewards, such as drakes, regardless of their preferred raid size. On a side note, remember that raid groups must consist of at least 80 percent guild members to earn guild achievements. That's easier to pull off in 10s if your guild has a smaller roster.
That's it for this week! Next week, I'll cover the intangibles category for the two raid sizes, as well as draw some overall conclusions to help you make this extremely important decision for your guild.
Send Scott your guild-related questions, conundrums, ideas and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may find your question the subject of next week's Officers' Quarters!