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25 man raiding and the tolling of the bell

Matthew Rossi

I have primarily run in 25 man raiding for the entirety of Cataclysm, and I raided all through Wrath of the Lich King and even Burning Crusade in 25 man raids. 25 man raiding is where I have the most fun. I like it for a variety of reasons. I enjoy having a wider selection of classes and specs available, I generally feel like a larger raid makes a fight feel more dramatic, I dislike how empty some raids feel with a smaller group. To me, a 10 man feels like a UBRS run. These are all personal reasons, I accept that they're not universal. I also wasn't impressed the few times I went into 10 man raids this expansion - the fights always seemed much easier, we blew through bosses we struggled with on 25, clearing 10 with undergeared alts due to the extremely forgiving space mechanics of raids like Firelands and Dragon Soul on 10 man.

So please understand, I am not a partisan of 10 man raiding. I don't like 10 mans. I find that their elevation to the top form of raiding was destructive to the game, to guilds, and to raiding itself. But they are and have been for some time the primary way that people raid. I hate 10 man raids. But the time has come to accept that we have killed the 25 man raid in all but name. It's not a question of should they be removed. They effectively have been removed. You see a lot of debate on what can be done to save the 25 man raid, and the developers have addressed the issue repeatedly in the Reddit AMA and Best Buy Q&A. But you'll notice that they address the issue by acknowledging it and highlighting the issues facing 25 man raids (difficulty of logistics, higher churn rates, higher recruitment needs, difficulty of encounter movement) but that no solutions are forthcoming.

Sometimes you need to get it over with

Now, you could say that it's early to expect solutions, but here's the fact - we knew this was what was going to happen from the moment the shift was announced at the end of Wrath of the Lich King. The moment that gear from 10 and 25 man raids was equalized and their lockouts shared, the many many advantages of 10 man raiding would compel players, even players who prefer 25 man, to seek out the far more logistically friendly 10 man raid. Encounter difficulty, churn, recruitment all reward 10 man groups. They're easier to run, easier to form, and complete the raids with less work. The encounters aren't easier because of tuning issues - by and large, there have been fights tuned as well as they can possibly be tuned for both raid sizes. Some fights are harder on 10 man. But the majority of fights have involved mechanics that involve movement into or out of a damaging effect, and in almost every situation those are easier to deal with on 10 man, with fewer people who can get hit and more space to move into and/or out of. This isn't the fault of 10 man raids, ultimately, so much as it is a consequence of having to design raid encounters for wildly variant sizes in the same spaces.

Many ideas are suggested for how to put life back into 25 man raiding - separate raid achievements, separate item skins, more loot dropping, even the return of better gear for 25 man raids - but as much as it pains me I feel that all of this misses the point. The player base has spoken. All else being equal, 10 man raiding is massively more popular with the majority of raiding players. The game changes over time, and the needs of those playing and consuming the content should always be paramount over a ragged few who prefer something else. I have said this repeatedly, and I believe it to be true even when it causes changes I don't personally care for. The question, therefore, is not how to save 25 man raiding. It's why should we and the answer appears to be pretty clear from my vantage point. There is no compelling reason to save 25 mans. Sometimes, even when we love something, we have to let it go for the greater good. I believe this time has come for 25 man raiding.

Solomon's choice, if executed, kills the baby

Why do I believe this? Because frankly, in order to save 25 man raiding you would need to put in a compelling reward for the logistical effort of maintaining the larger, more difficult, more complex raiding size. Players won't put in effort purely for its own sake, especially not while playing a game. There's a reason relatively few of us have the Insane title. If you wish to maintain 10 man raiding, then giving out the same loot for both 10 and 25 man raiding is essential or it will go back to being a side-track. If 25 man rewards were commensurate with their difficulty to sustain, they would push 10 man back into the shadows. Furthermore, having 25 man drop higher iLevel gear led to the gear inflation of Wrath of the Lich King, with TotC as an example wherein you had 10 man, 10 man heroic - 25 man normal, and 25 man heroic levels of gear. In addition to inflating gear, it meant that 10 man always had to be designed with 10 man gear in mind, making it easy for 25 man geared players to stomp all over it. No, ilevel of gear cannot be an option for saving 25 man raiding.

Any solution that comes to mind - special achievements, special mounts or vanity items, special cosmetic sets of gear for 25 man - that's more compelling than simply throwing more of the same gear at 25's just kind of falls flat. If you put something in 25's that 10's cannot get, you risk making 10's seem like the second rate raid. If you don't, 25's are moribund. The two raid sizes cannot coexist equally. They've failed to do so for the entirety of two expansions now. And designing two sizes of raids for the same encounters has led to some hilariously lopsided uses of the spaces. If you've run H Dragon Soul on 10 and 25, you've seen how ludicrous the changes in raid scale can appear in some of these cavernous rooms. The Eye of Eternity platform looks silly with those posts dropping so close to the center of the room for 10 man.

Never before have I wanted to be wrong this much

In the end, I'm pessimistic about this. I admit to my pessimism. I don't think any steps that they can take at this point will be sufficient to save 25 man raiding, and that any effort to do so will be throwing good development time after bad. In the end, I'd suggest that designing all raids as 10 mans and then scaling them up for raid finder and 25 man is probably the way to go - if 25 mans are to be kept alive in such an artificial manner at all. Failing that, allowing for 10's and 25's to have separate lockouts again (allowing 25 mans two bites at the apple every week) could work, despite its manifest unfairness to 10 man raiders. That's the problem, really - every solution I've seen bandied about to the problem seems unfair to 10 man raiders, and doing nothing is unfair to 25 man raiders. Better we make the tough decision and stop spending time and resources propping up a raid size we effectively abandoned on December 7th, 2010. Will I be happy? No. I hate 10 man raiding. But I'd rather know, and make my decisions from that knowledge, than constantly hope something will be done to keep the raiding I love going, when it's clear that there is almost no chance for it to happen.

Now, I would love if I'm proved wrong. If Blizzard can pull some kind of game changing miracle out of the ether and give us something that can save 25 man raiding that doesn't make 10 man raiders feel compelled to raid 25, that would be awesome. I would sing their praises to the rafters, I would go on twitter and admit to all and sundry how wrong I was and how great a job they did fixing a problem I thought completely unsolvable. I don't believe that will happen, but I'm open to seeing it. My only thought is that it had better happen soon, or there won't be enough 25 man raids left for it to matter.

It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!

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