15 Minutes of Fame: Getting strict about 10-man content

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Ten-man raids represent the easy mode of endgame raiding -- true or false? Answer: It depends. Savvy players recognize that 10-man content is easier as a whole only when undertaken by players decked out in 25-man raid gear. Even a few key 25-man pieces among several raiders can tip the power balance of a 10-man encounter. But in today's 25-man world, keeping 10-man gear and power pools pure is quite the challenge. Those who succeed see their efforts go unrewarded when 25-man groups snatch away progression achievements after overpowering the content with 25-man gear.

A growing number of small guilds are working out player-friendly solutions to these dilemma in the so-called "10-man strict" movement. Why bother? We visited with 10-man strict raider Ghengie of <Amicus> (transferred to EU Haomarush as of this weekend; Armory update pending) to examine the challenges and rewards of endgame raiding on the smallest scale.

Main character Ghengie
Guild Amicus
Server EU Haomarush-A
WoWstyle 10-man Strict

15 Minutes of Fame: Ghengie, can you explain to readers what "the deal" is with 10-man strict raiding? What makes 10-man strict remarkable?

Ghengie: Currently, most players look at 10-man raids as the practice zones for 25-man guilds on progression and their playground on off-days. What people tend to forget is that 10-man raids are balanced around 10-man gear.

The progression pathway in the current tier should be: TotC-10 > TotGC-10 > ICC-10 > ICC-10-HM. Almost everybody has PUGged TotC-25 since the release, and almost every serious 25-man guild has cleared at least part of TotGC-25. Therefore, almost every serious raider entering ICC-10 is wearing ilvl 245 and higher gear. During ICC-10 progress, these raiders are clearing ICC-25 bosses, too; therefore, their overgearing increases even further.

10-man strict means we are not raiding any 25-man content that will yield us gear with a higher ilvl than our current 10-man content. We progress through the 10-man raids at the level Blizzard balanced them, and therefore the content is a lot more challenging than most of the player base realizes.
Indeed, the player community's regard for 10-man strict raiding doesn't seem to be very high.

The biggest chunk of the WoW raiding population is part of 25-man raiding guilds, which is pretty logical since this has been the way raiding has been for most of the existence of the game. There has not been that much 10-man content out before. Think about Karazhan, which was the entry-level raid at level 70. Every guild ran it as a step up to the 25-man content. Near the end of The Burning Crusade, Zul'Aman was released. I really loved that instance, and I actually joined a 10-man guild there. But with no content to move on to, that guild had to move on to 25-man raiding like everybody else.

As I understand, the success of Zul'Aman made Blizzard realize that 10-man raids are interesting. The concept is pretty new, and most players are "stuck" in their old 25-man guilds and raiding habits. Of course, there's also the drive for new epics. A lot of people would never want to leave 25-man raiding, purely because that is where the very best epics drop.

The general (low) opinion (of 10-man content) comes from the 25-man guilds. They are racing through in their gear, not realizing that some fights are (or were, before the hotfixes) nicely tuned for a 10-man guilds.

Tracking 10-man strict accomplishments seems to be problematic. What are the issues?

The site everybody uses to track progress is GuildOx. For 25-man raiding, the tracking is working fine, but Blizzard has not given them tools to read out 10-man progress. There are normal killing achievements like The Crimson Hall, but there is no way to see if that kill was performed while overgeared. That's why GuildOx inserted a requirement that is really giving us a hard time: in order to stay on the strict rankings, a guild is not allowed to have more than seven kills on any boss in ICC-25.

Unless people are in a 10-man strict guild, they are PUGging ICC-25. Almost every new recruit bumps up the number of kills. We also have a lot of social members and alts. They do not take part in our raiding group but are forced to follow that same rule, too. We have already had alts and socials leave the guild to be able to gear up further. That's really not desirable for the social aspect of the guild.

We've heard player wish lists for improving 10-man play with ideas such as automatically dropping 25-man gear stats to 10-man gear levels for anyone entering a 10-man instance. Is there anything Blizzard could implement that you believe could improve the 10-man experience?

I have heard about that suggestion, but I really do not believe that is the solution. The most important thing about WoW is that everybody can enjoy it the way they want. That includes the 25-man guilds rushing through 10-man content and 10-man guilds gearing up in 25-man PUGs before they can down the 10-man content. For some, overgearing is the only way to get things done!

Another suggestion I have heard is removing the separate 10- and 25-man lock-out. I would not like to see this being implemented either, as this would kill off a lot of the PUGging community.

The solution we have proposed was adding a "strict" requirement to the progress achievements. Blizzard has already implemented this in earlier content, such as Dedicated Insanity in TotGC-10 and Herald of the Titans in Ulduar-10. This would solve all our problems. We could recruit players with an ICC-25 kill, and every character in our guild would be able to enjoy a PUG on their off-days, too, without worrying about the rankings -- as long as we are wearing 10-man gear the moment we score a new kill.

To take it one step further, the strict requirement could be added to all the achievements with a reward. This would stop the overgearing guilds from scoring the first Frostbrood Vanquisher and the title The Kingslayer (though it is too late for this tier already). This would greatly increase the regard towards 10-man guilds that have obtained these vanity rewards.

But these changes would influence a major part of the game, and I'm unsure how far Blizzard is willing to go with 10-man raiding. I don't want to push it. The easiest solution I can think of is one big meta-achievement that collects all boss kills in an instance while wearing only 10-man raid gear. This would create a tool to track progress. If that made it into the game, I'd be really happy.

How did you get involved in 10-man strict?

I have been raiding since The Burning Crusade, starting off in Karazhan and then on to 25-man guilds. Due to time constraints, I have never been able to join a top guild. Therefore, I have had my share of guild drama and /gdisbands. When another guild fell apart, I really had enough of it. That was when I founded Amicus, together with the friend who got me started in WoW. It turned out we had around 10 players on the server that were all connected through real-life bonds. We started out in Karazhan again and did some Zul'Aman, but it always stayed really casual.

When the news got out about a 10-man progression pathway in WotLK, we got really excited. We brought some more friends into the game, and we had a raiding team ready for when the expansion hit. When it was time to start on the Ulduar hard modes, we soon realized that a guild is more than a bunch of friends. Our roster was lacking, and not everybody was up to the performance we'd like to see. We reworked our rules, went international (we were a Dutch guild) and recruited some players that have really added to the team since then. In this setting we have cleared TotGC-10, including Insanity. But up to that point, we were not strict.

We decided to go for the rankings when ICC hit. We hoped that this new raid would not be as PUGgable as the previous TotC so that we could actually convince all our raiders to follow us in the new format. We had some struggle to convince our altaholics who enjoyed running every raid on every alt, every week. But we got the whole group together, and we have really been enjoying ICC-10 since the release.
What's the attraction of 10-man strict?

During raids, there is no need for a military regime on Ventrilo. We are only 10 players; there is always room to comment, for everybody. Because the roster in a 10 man guild is a lot smaller, we are growing into a group of real friends. We try to promote this by always using real-life names -- this, to the extent that I can't remember the in-game name and have tried to /w "real life name"! I've had friendships in 25-man guilds, but I've never experienced a more tight-knit community before. We don't have any anonymous raiders who ride along and are forgotten the moment they leave the guild.

How's Amicus doing in Icecrown Citadel?

I am rather pleased with our ICC progress. So far we have gotten everything down but Sindragosa and the Lich King. For Putricide, we had to come back a second night; we cleared the Crimson Halls on the release day, before the hotfixes made it to live. The only boss that is putting up some resistance is Sindragosa, but with wipes around 1%, that issue should have been cleared by the time this interview is out.

The most challenging part of our progress so far has been the lag during peak times. Frostmane is a crowded server, and that really has a big impact on our raiding, since we only raid around 7 hours each week. We ended up moving to EU Haomarush this weekend; we were able to keep our guild name, Amicus. I'm really happy the whole guild, including all socials, decided to follow us.

Due to the transfer, our raid IDs got randomized. Therefore, we can't enter ICC-10 tonight, so we will be stuck at Sindragosa until Wednesday. But on the positive side, I have not noticed any lag since the transfer. Even Wintergrasp was lag-free last night! The Armory is behind on updating, as it still shows all our members on Frostmane. Due to the same issue, we have not been able to add the new Amicus to guildOx.com, either.

Best of luck to Amicus this week as they climb back into the progression saddle to tackle Sindragosa on their new, lag-free home realm.

"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- neither did we, until we talked with these players. From an Oscar-winning 3-D effects director to a rising pop singer ... from a quadriplegic player to a bunch of guys who get together for dinner and group raiding in person every week ... Catch our 2009 year-end retrospective for a year's worth of WoW personalities.
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