Thursday, August 4, 2011

Ten Man Raiding: A Post-Mortem

After raid leading 25mans during Wrath, I decided to see how the 10man side of progression raiding would measure up to what I thought was the more stressful and chaotic 25man side of things. While it lived up to my expectations in some areas, 10man progression raiding underperformed drastically in some areas. Would I call it a win or a loss? I’d call it a wash. Both models have their warts, but as long as the Internet exists, there will be people from both camps lobbing grenades at each other. Let’s dive in.

The Good:
- Easier to assemble.
So you decided you want to raid, or want to put together a raiding team. Depending on how many friends you have (who play wow, know what raiding is, and aren’t that bad at the game and/or how many people you can pull from trade chat or the realm forums) odds are pulling 9 other people together is always easier to manage than 24. I still applaud this decision made back in Wrath.

- Less Loot
Less loot is a good thing? Whaaaaa? Loot drama all but disappears when there are only 1-2 people in the raid that can use a given item. Trinkets are still a wild card, as are tier tokens, but generally everyone stays pretty happy. Less loot = less complex loot systems, and all the crazy DKP variants are sort of redundant.

- Geometry
Need to spread out? There is an ENORMOUS space for you to do so. Generally spread out mechanics are trivialized by 10man raiding, but to be fair 25man raids pull someone back from the brink if “that guy” messes up a spread out mechanic. I’m still giving this one to the 10mans.

- Less downtime
From my experience there is far less time spend on raid chatter, and wipe recovery is a lot quicker when there are less people to manage. I think everyone does a lot more self-policing when the anonymity factor goes away. You are more accountable to the people around you because you have a much bigger effect on the success of the raid.

- Everyone’s voice gets heard.
Since the sea of voices is diminished, you might hear from people who don’t normally speak up and offer useful advice. As a raid leader, you will probably get a good perspective from other points of view during an encounter, and parsing the useful advice gets a little easier.

The Bad:
- Everyone’s voice gets heard…
As long as there are more than two people in close proximity, someone is going to have an opinion about something else. Raiding is no exception. There is less inertia for people to have their voices heard, and people are also going to take advantage of that and speak to an audience.

- Less Loot
Another double edged sword. While the boss does drop loot that is pretty much tailored for 1-2 specs, the boss loot tables are so big, that getting 2-3 pieces from a 15 item table can create a lot of problems and if you are really unlucky, you may never end up getting that piece that you want. 25mans get to sample the loot table more times, so there is a greater chance that something you want will drop even though the loot/raider ratio is the same.

- Fighting the raid buff boss
It becomes very difficult to balance a raid group and making sure that you have all the raid buffs possible, which will help your chances of success dramatically. Given the ridiculous amount of buffs/debuffs/auras there are available, all I can say is that I hope you have a hunter and a shaman to fill in the gaps. We ran for the longest time without the 3% damage buff in the raid, and while I am sure it didn’t make that much difference, it would have been a huge help. I even know some teams that ran without druids before warlocks and death knights were given battle reses. That is huge for an encounter and recovering from and RNG death.
Don’t even talk to me about raid cooldowns. 25man wins it flat out in that situation.

- One death usually means wipe.
Having one person die to an encounter means very different things when you compare the two sizes of raid. Losing 10% of your raid vs 4% of your raid is a big deal. I have raided a little bit with the Big Crits 25man team, Da Crew, as well as pugging 25man raids and you can usually limp through an encounter after losing 3-5 people. If you have a person die on 10man, the encounter is generally considered over.

- Thinner social fabric
This one I think is the most important thing. As it is much easier to form a 10man raiding team, it is equally easier to dissolve one. A 25man raiding team carries with it much more inertia with it in terms of people wanting to play together, and friendships forged. There is more team spirit and camaraderie in a 25man raid that stays together than a 10man. Another raider and I decided to quit at about the same time on our 10man team and it pretty much meant lights out for the team.

Lessons Learned:
The major drawing point for me to start 10man progression raiding was that smaller tight knit groups required less cats to herd, communication from raid leader to raider was more clear, and that the raiders would have a bigger interest in having the raid succeed. The density of raiders would be able to gel and everyone would be able to play off the other raiders’ strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately this was true, but the flaw in my plan was that turnover happens, and when it does, filling that hole becomes incredibly difficult. Tier 11 was really hard to recruit raiders for, especially given the careful class/buff/gear balance that 10mans have to take into consideration.

Ten mans also suffer from the daydream that you can have 10 and only 10 raiders, given all the other balances that need to be kept in check. Raiders want to raid, and sitting on the bench for a 10man seems like such a foreign concept. It’s not uncommon for a 25man to have a raiding roster of 35 people given people’s availability and boss encounter compositions. In retrospect, having a bigger bench would have helped tremendously. Real life happens, and when it does, it can cripple an entire raid night.

I suppose it doesn’t matter whether you are raiding 10s or 25s, but one bad apple spoils the bunch. Every raiding team has their “that guy” whether they can’t find his interrupt button, they can’t manage their sound on Atramedes, or they lack a functioning mic to warn that they just did something bad. I guess it is all relative, based on the perceptions of the rest of your raiding team; I have definitely been that guy before.

As far as the fun factor, I had a lot of fun in both environments, but I think that depends more on the people that you raid with rather than the size of the raid. To each his/her own in that regard. I hope to get back into progression raiding eventually, either with Big Crits or some yet to be found guild full of cool people. As for the moment, life is calling me in other directions.

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