Looking at how Blizzard is "nerfing" Ulduar makes me giggle a little bit. There are open flame wars on our realm forums and everywhere with everyone claiming bigger E-Peens than everyone else because they downed the content before Blizzard nerfed it. I don't think it matters but when a new raid is released, I have belief that the difficulty is released on a sliding scale. Blizzard may claim the contrary and say that the polish was missing on some of the encounters, which is also very valid. Some fixes are bugs and some are much needed tuning. The raid difficulty is put in place as a barrier from guilds demolishing the place in a single night. A raid has a lifespan of about 6 months before your raiders have everything they could really want from the place and are chomping at the bit for some new content.
In my mind there are three types of raiding guilds: Top 100, Top 1000 and everyone else (EE).
Top 100 guilds are not necessarily the best raiders in the world, but they have the time and the dedication to beat their faces against any kind of content. They are competent and motivated and in some cases, just badass. Broken, badly tuned, insanely difficult (First 2 weeks of M'uru hard) these things will not deter them. I look at Ensidia's first Hodir hard mode kill as basically a F*ck you blizzard; you can over tune encounters and we will still find a way to beat them. These guilds also have seemingly infinite resources with active rosters probably nearing 100 geared raiders. My hat goes off to the guild leaders of these kinds of guilds as they are probably managing a logistical nightmare keeping everyone rotated in raids (multiple raid teams?), recruiting quality people, and making counter raid comps for every encounter during a progression race. /salute
Top 1000 guilds are usually the server 2-4 ranked guilds that most likely have the same skill and understanding of the game as the T100 guilds, but simply don't have the time or the resources to dedicate to raiding as these more organized guilds. These people most likely have careers or other obligations in their lives that take precedent over raiding. They still get the rush, they still have fun, and they can clear content arguably with less time invested on the encounters themselves. They can rely on a steady roster of people and go at raiding with less time input that the T100. These people understand their class and possibly even more about other classes. This is the kind of guild I raid with today.
Everyone else has a few quality raiders but they do not have a steady roster and are generally more social and touchy feely and not as skilled as the top 1000. These players generally do not optimize their gear with gems and enchants nor do they understand the finer subtleties of how to raid with the class they play. Raid optimization also falls by the wayside, a symptom of not having a steady core. These guilds are doomed to raid Naxx until the end of time, and I think they are fine with that. The good players with a desire to raid other stuff will eventually leave and join more organized guilds.
At one time I raided with a guild very similar to a top100 in the first days of Sunwell and it was one of the most fun times I ever had raiding, but I spent 6 hours a day, 5 days a week raiding (not to mention time to farm consumables) while having a girlfriend, a job, and night school to do at the same time. It burns you and everyone else out.
Eventually M'uru downed us simply because we did not have the right classes online when we were doing progression and it didn't matter that everyone else was ready. Most nights we were one feral druid short. We got to M'uru phase 2 in a few nights after the cockblock gate was opened, but the guild stopped raiding before the pushback and add HP nerf. If we could have stayed together for another week we could have nailed the encounter with the nerfs.
This right here gets back to my point. To this day, guilds hold this prize over their heads: stomping pre-"nerfed" content. When new content is released Blizzard’s demographic is the T100 guilds. They can pretty much do whatever they want in terms of tweaking the difficulty of the encounters to stymie these juggernauts.
This claim to skill is a false one. It is a matter of ultra guilds with limitless time and resource constraints throwing everything in their arsenal at content to see it fall. Time is the most important factor here, and to a greater extent in this game as well; if you give a player enough time, eventually all content is meaningless (raids, achievements, gear) and everything can be accomplished even if you are terrible at the game.
Blizzard does not try to get the tuning right the first time; not because they are lazy, but because they know that no matter how it is tuned, there will be ways to cheese the encounters, and monster guilds that will chew through all the crap. They are taking an iterative approach to having these monster guilds help them tune the instance for the people with time and resource constraints. The test realms only help so much as some guilds do not even log onto them as they do not want the instances spoiled for them in order to make that first night of new content that much more fun; there is also very little incentive to test raid content on the PTR as it all your effort goes away come the real release save some experience with the encounters.
Sorry for the long post but this has been on my mind from all the lvl1 trolls throwing insults at each other for defeating pre-nerfed content and stroking their own E-Peen.