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The Entrance to Zul'Aman - 10 player raiding

As our readers know there are many things changing in the World of Warcraft in the near future with the release of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. One of the things that will surely cause ripples is the move from a 25 player raiding progression system to a side by side 10 and 25 player progression system. While this has been a change that has caused a lot of rejoicing among players in smaller guilds, it is one that could cause a major change in the way guilds function in the expansion. That's what I want to look at and provide thoughts on in this weeks editorial: How will raid changes affect guilds in the Wrath of the Lich King.

An important thing to keep in mind is that there are many guilds out there that will not be affected at all by the changes in raiding. After all, not every guild raids. There are many that are casual guilds that just quest and socialize, there are leveling guilds, PvP guilds, role playing guilds and many others. In all likely hood these will continue unaffected. When it comes to raiding guilds though, I see storm clouds ahead.

When WoW was first released, raiding required a 40 player group. This meant that the ideal progression raiding guild had around 45-55 raid player members. They may have had additional characters for each player, or friends that just wanted to be in the guild, but the core raiders numbered in that range. This ensured enough players to fill the spots required and a few spares for when real life interrupted a players ability to be online. It also ensured that the player base was small enough over the minimum, that players could learn who everyone else was and come to count on them, it wasn't random who was there each week.

When the Burning Crusade launched and raids changed to 25 players, suddenly guilds had two choices for progression raiding. They either cut down the number of players to 30ish, or recruited to 60ish players to field two raiding groups. With cross group issues and per instance binding, the two raid group trials that some guilds did, usually did not work out well, and the guilds split in half. At the same time Karazhan was introduced (and later Zul'Aman), which allowed smaller groups to raid. This made raiding more accessible to many players, but put a hard cap on it 10 player progression as there were only two instances the progress through..

With the launch of WotLK Blizzard is putting a fully matched 10 and 25 player raiding system together. The 10 player version of each raid will be about a tier behind the 25 player version, but because there will be several tiers it will allow full progression to the end game raid system to smaller groups.

Since many players raid simply to see and experience the end game, the lore and the bosses, I can see that when 10 player raid progression opens, many players will switch to this format instead of 25 man raiding. After all when you raid with a smaller group you have more time with each person there to form friendships, social interactions, bonds, etc. There are also far fewer players to content with for the ventrilo airwaves, so each person can speak more, again helping the above.

Players notice this when they go from a small 10 man raid like Karazhan to a large 25 person raid like Gruul's. Even though Gruul is not that difficult, it becomes more like work. There is more organization and planning required. Also due to more players online, chatter has to be minimized so that when something important needs to be said, it can be said and heard. This further enforces the "feel" change from one of fun to almost work. Don't get me wrong though, the fun is still there, and if fact to some degree even more since the sense of reward can be more, since it is harder to organize and plan, but it's a different fun.

Ok, probably way more than enough history and background. Now that the logic and theory is clear though, what does all this mean to raiding guilds in the WotLK?

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Magtheridon's Lair, the first step for many 25 player raiders

What I firmly believe will happen is a further break down of raiding guilds, at least for the short term. In my playing experience I have found that most players that want to raid are there to get to the end game and see the content. Many would argue that it is for the loot, but I disagree. The loot is part of it, but only so far as to allow players to get to that next step. If there was no next step in difficulty to get to, then the desire for better loot would quickly fade. I am confident that this will mean that most progression guilds will drop down to 12-14 raid players.

Players who want to see the content will see it as a far easier route to 10 player raid the content, since finding and coordinating with 9 other players that you like and can trust is FAR easier than finding 24. This means that there will likely be at least double the number of progression raiding guilds around a few months after the expansions release as there is right now. Over time though, this may change again. Obviously there are exceptions to this as well. There are a large number of players that raid that feel they need to maintain large raid numbers (25-40 players) to make the raid feel epic enough to be rewarding. Many of the hard core raiders will also look down on the 10 player raid versions as "baby" or "welfare" versions since the gear will be of lower quality. There will therefore still be 25 player hard core raiding guilds.

After small raiding guilds (10 player) progress through all of the content available to them, they may start to itch for that one extra step. If there are 5 raids available for example, the 5th step of 10 player content would be equivalent to the 4th step in 25 player content (at least as stated by Blizzard so far). This means that when done the 5th stage 10 player raids, players may look to prove themselves at a bit higher level, or to get gear that is slightly better for when a 6th stage is released, and join up with another guild or 2 and attempt the 25 player version. This could lead to guild mergers later on, but probably not until at least 9-12 months after the release of the expansion.

In summary, my thoughts are that within a month of the release of WotLK there will be enough level 80's that want to raid that raiding guilds will start to splinter. Only the most hard core raiding guilds will still do 25 player raiding. Most players will instead raid the 10 player raids for several months until they run out of progression opportunities. They will then look to form up with bigger groups for that last step.

One very positive side effect that I see coming about from this change is less guild breakups than previously. When you raid and progress with just 9 other players, as discussed above, you become closer to each of those 9 players than you would to 24 others. This to me, means that you are far less likely to jump ship to another 10 player progression guild since you would be losing the ability to play with "friends" rather than just "fellow raiders".

Anyway, that's the Messiah's take on it, what's yours?

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Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Ten Ton Hammer network or staff.

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Byron has been playing and writing about World of Warcraft for the past ten years. He also plays pretty much ever other Blizzard game, currently focusing on Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, while still finding time to jump into Diablo III with his son.