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Officers' Quarters: The great raid size debate

Scott Andrews

Every Monday, Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership. He is the author of The Guild Leader's Handbook, available now from No Starch Press.

Cataclysm, as you are probably already aware, brings with it massive changes to the raiding scene in World of Warcraft. Certainly the most controversial change is Blizzard's desire, announced in April, to balance and separate 10- and 25-man raids -- namely, both sizes will share the same lockout and loot tables. The 10-man scene, widely regarded as inferior throughout WoW's history, will be designed to have approximately the same difficulty as its 25-man counterpart. Reports from the beta dungeon forums indicate that 10-man bosses are currently much easier to bring down than their 25-man versions, but we can only assume that Blizzard will take steps to even out the difficulty according to its stated goal.

In the weeks following the expansion's launch, it will be extremely interesting to see how this whole situation shakes out. These changes will force most guilds to choose one size or the other as their primary raiding focus. As I've previously stated, this is a good thing. Many officers right now, including the one who wrote this week's email, are wondering which size to choose. Officers' Quarters is here to help!
Hail Scott,

What is your take on 10-man versus 25-man raiding in Cataclysm? Our guild would like to continue raiding 25-mans, but several of the other raid guilds on our server have apparently decided to switch to 10s. Are they jumping to conclusions, or are they on to something? Is this the end of 25-man raiding, and are we in for a repeat of the guild implosions and massive raider unemployment we saw when 40s were dropped to 25s?

Lots of uncertainty out there on this subject, your views on the matter in a future article would be very enlightening.


The fallout

Dunnik, I predict that we will see fallout similar to the vanilla-to-Burning Crusade raid-size transition for some guilds, but it won't be the same widespread disaster. Back then, raiding guilds didn't have a choice; everyone had to adapt to the change if they wanted to move forward. Some guilds were able to survive this transition, and some weren't.

Cataclysm will be a bit different. Many guilds will be able to keep their raiding focus the same, drawing on the same rosters. Larger guilds can maintain their larger rosters and continue to raid 25-mans; they just won't be able to run smaller raids with the same characters for additional loot and points. Other guilds can continue to run 10s with the same people; they just won't be able to pug 25-mans with the same characters. In short, the Cataclysm changes aren't nearly as big an adjustment as forcibly cutting your roster down to fit 40 players into 25 slots.

A number of guilds, unfortunately, will not fare so well. Some will dump players and reduce their roster to run 10s, as some have already done on Dunnik's server. Others will fracture into multiple 10-man guilds. The drama will hit hardest those guilds whose officers have no real plan, who haven't taken the time to decide what will be best for their guilds and make decisions accordingly.

Dunnik, whether or not you should switch to 10s is a question only you can answer -- but I can help you decide. This three-part column is about taking the first step and choosing the raid size that's best suited for your guild. That way, you can actually plan for the expansion rather than sit around and wait for the drama to happen.

Our first step is to examine the various factors involved. I've divided these factors into four categories: gameplay, rewards, logistics and intangibles. This week, I'll cover the advantages and disadvantages of gameplay for the different sizes.

  • We can only speculate about relative difficulty. Wrath was the first expansion to offer the same bosses for different raid sizes. While most encounters, such as the Lich King, are easier with fewer people, they were also designed to be. They were designed to be killable using only lesser, 10-man loot and without access to every class's buffs. Even so, some encounters wound up harder to do in 10s. Sartharion with three drakes was an early -- and infamous -- example. Sindragosa, in my experience, is also much easier in a larger raid. Now that Blizzard is actually trying to make the difficulties equal, we just don't know how often it'll be able to nail it. I would expect a number of bosses to be easier for one raid size or another, but how many and how much easier is impossible to say at this point. Most players are assuming that 10s will be easier overall, but we have no compelling evidence of that yet. Beta is beta.
  • 10-man raids offer fewer options for dealing with specific boss abilities and/or adds. For example, a boss that requires a ton of interrupts, such as General Vezax, is easier to deal with when you have more players who can interrupt. A boss with lots of adds to kite, such as Saurfang, is easier when you have more hunters, mages, death knights, etc. (Of course, there are generally fewer adds in a smaller raid size, but you still need someone to kite them.)
  • Position-based abilities are easier to deal with in 10s. Spreading out in a room built for 25 players is obviously going to be a lot easier with only 10 players. Heroic Deathwhisper's phase 2 is a great example of this issue. Likewise, it's easier for a raid leader to see a player who's out of position when there are fewer people.
  • Player deaths are not as crippling in 25-mans. A dead player in a 25 will not usually guarantee a wipe, whereas a dead player in a 10 is much harder to overcome. Consequently, 10-man raiders experience a greater fear of getting killed. To make matters worse, 25-man raids also have more ways to bring people back. Tanks are the exception -- a dead tank is a major problem no matter how many players you have. Blizzard seems to be experimenting with different cooldowns for a druid's battle rez. In-combat player recovery could become much more difficult in Cataclysm than it was for most of Wrath.
  • It's easier to cover for someone else's mistake with 25 players. In a 10-man raid in which you might have two healers, for example, one healer's mistake can quickly lead to a player death or a wipe. Even if the other healer wants to help out, he or she generally can't afford to without losing someone else. In a larger raid, other healers can often cover for that player, healing his or her assigned target(s) for a short time. Likewise, if a DPS attacks the wrong target in a 10-man, that's about 14-18 percent less damage on the target, depending on that player's output. In a 25-man, it's only about 5-7 percent of total damage on average. Other DPS or even crit RNG could easily make up that difference.
I think you can already see that choosing 10-man raids isn't quite the no-brainer that some players are making it out to be. The 25-man size seems to pull ahead in this category, at least. Did I miss any other considerations for this topic? Post them below! Next week, I'll cover more categories. Then, the third and final column will draw conclusions based on these discussions to help you and your members make a choice.


Send Scott your guild-related questions, conundrums, ideas and suggestions at You may find your question the subject of next week's Officers' Quarters!

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