Squaring a Circle

Mythic raiding. Where do I even begin?

Back in Mists of Pandaria, I was part of a very tightly knit 10-player raiding guild called Harvest Moon. The guild stood for friendship and fun and raiding in a close atmosphere. The supportive nature of the guild produced really excellent players – we cleared Normal ToT and went on to kill 11/14 Heroic in SoO. It was a real pleasure to be a part of the team, even through various leadership changes and a name change to Omnishambles.

We’ve always been a guild who believed first and foremost that playing well and progressing far in Heroic raiding wasn’t mutually exclusive with a fun and casual atmosphere. We really showed that in Mists of Pandaria, and we were totally poised to carry that on into Warlords of Draenor. But then… Mythic. 20-player only. Oh damn.

I was watching the livestream back at the announcement, and even back then I wasn’t entirely happy about it. On a low progression server like Ghostlands EU, it seemed an impossible question to ask a small guild to suddenly double its roster.

We did, though. We recruited hard for over a year and our server was merged with Dragonblight (which brought in a whole bunch of lovely players), and we made it to WoD as a full guild with a full roster and ready to carry on the legacy we worked so hard building in Mists. It didn’t happen, and it’s worth saying why.

What we’ve discovered the hard way is that one cannot just add players to a guild and expect things to work out the same way. We recruited extremely heavily, and along with that came expectations – expectations of progress, expectations of performance, expectations of leadership. Our leaders – myself included – did our best, and we did our jobs competently enough, but it simply isn’t enough to do that.

Somewhere along the line, we lost the spark. Our leaders were working a second job, our raiders were having problems satisfying both the supportive atmosphere and the expectations of performance and progress. Tensions built up and it stopped being fun for everyone. It’s nobody’s fault, but the leaders of the guild have been put in the position where we have to choose between raiding Mythic (being miserable as a consequence) or possibly not even raiding at all. That’s not a choice we should have to make. The guild was great on the fundamental basis that fun and achievement weren’t mutually exclusive on our commitments.

The change to Mythic broke that. We can no longer have a nice atmosphere and progress. It just doesn’t fit with the casual time commitment which we have to keep. Where we were once “causalcore”, we are now simply casual. Now that we’ve taken the step away from Mythic, though, there is no going back – it would be against the fundamental principles of the guild to turn around one day and tell our friends that we can’t bring them because we have too many DPS.

I keep returning to this fact in my mind, because it demonstrates the exact problem that Mythic has caused us – when all difficulties we wanted to raid were fixed size, it was a natural progression from Normal to Heroic. Now, we have to abruptly change the guild’s approach to move between difficulties. There is now a barrier to entry to Mythic that we just can’t allow and didn’t have to deal with before, and it has utterly killed our ambitions. We are disempowered.

Worse – in the brief period that Highmaul Mythic has existed, our leaders have burned out one by one. We, who used to be friends, have had so much pressure trying to cope with the step change in raid size that we started to personally conflict with each other. I actually broke down in tears mid-raid. Over my favourite pastime.

Our guild isn’t the only to suffer. I see so many guild struggling to raise enough players to hit the Mythic bar. So many groups of players who, until WoD hit, were well progressed and happy groups. Many of them have fallen by the wayside in some respect – be it in terms of raid atmosphere or progress. Blizzard made a change to the raiding sizes with the promise that the community will adapt. But which community? My community? My community nearly split apart at the seams. I nearly lost my friends. While the bulk community has carried on, the small sub-communities, those who mattered dearly to me as a small-group raider, have lost their essence.

Fundamentally, the change to raiding in WoD has killed the dreams of my guild. It has made life measurably worse for our guild leaders and it’s impacted my own mental health. Raiding has seen a fundamental change, one that I knew in my bones was going to happen, and now I am reaping the consequences. We can no longer be goodcasual, and happy, and as a result WoW has lost something fundamentally precious to me.

Blizzard didn’t have to make that change, but it made it knowing full well that many 10-player guilds would fundamentally break. I’m not angry; I’m disappointed.

Welcome to <Omnishambles> – Ghostlands EU. Go casual, or go home.

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About stoove

A physicist, researcher, and gamesman. Likes to think about the mathematics and mechanics behind all sorts of different things, and writing up the thoughts for you to read. A competent programmer, enjoys public speaking and mechanical keyboards. Has opinions which might even change from time to time.
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16 Responses to Squaring a Circle

  1. Borg says:

    I totally sympathise with your predicament. I think that what Blizzard should have mentioned regarding Mythic, that it’s harder than heroic. It’s taking more management and really you have to be a guild running more than 12 hours a week if you think you’re going to get anywhere near Mythic completion. Our guild wouldn’t have tried to expand from 15 to 20 if that had been public knowledge.

    We have had the same problem in our guild – we had 17 fitting into 10 in SoO but everything was great. However now, even the progression through Heroic has caused us to almost break apart at the seams. Thankfully we had a big guild meeting and realised that probably Mythic isn’t going to be achievable for dedicated but social raiders who are above average, but no more.

    So for now, we’ve seen a return to better, fun raiding. But…. seeing as it’s taken the worlds top guilds 3 days to actually kill Blackhand on heroic – I think that Blizzard is over-tuning these fights, causing guild members who were once harmonius, to bicker and find fault with each other because there is too much personal responsibility now in these raids.

    I feel that if Blizzard keeps towing this line it’s going to lead to the breakup of many guilds.

    • stoove says:

      Thanks for your comment, Borg!

      I think that while Mythic is indeed slightly harder than Heroic was in SoO, for our guild skill level serious progress would have been a possibility if the raid sizes had stayed the same.

      I guess it’s slightly different for everyone, but I do enjoy hard fights like the ones we’re seeing in Mythic right now. I’d be happy to progress on them in a 10 or even 15-player setting! 🙂

    • stoove says:

      I think that while Mythic is indeed slightly harder than Heroic was in SoO, for our guild skill level serious progress would have been a possibility if the raid sizes had stayed the same.

      I guess it’s slightly different for everyone, but I do enjoy hard fights like the ones we’re seeing in Mythic right now.

  2. Navigator Black says:

    I can sympathise.
    I like raiding with a small group, 10 man raiding was the best change to raids that WoW ever had. Large raids I find stressful, tedious, removing the fun strategising and tactical executions where every player’s performance matters and you really work as a team. Larger raids are shambling masses of statistics, chaos in motion, often sloppy.

    In the flex raid world, I will likely never see a small raid again. I’m not a hardcore raider, my guild is casual, inclusive, friendly, and I like them. We are nothing but accommodating. Which is a nice temperment for a guild to have, but it also means we never turn people away from a raid because there’s no game-derived barrier, only ones created by guild leadership. When a raid can hold 30 players, why tell the person who logs on 10 minutes after raid start who didn’t sign up because he wasn’t sure he could make it that he can’t come? Leadership loves the flex system because they no longer have the stress of choosing who comes and who doesn’t, it’s good for overall morale.

    But every raid night I end with asking myself “do I want to keep doing this?” and it’s not a good place to be in. I’m not an overly social person, I like small intimate gatherings, not large woo-hah parties, but I find now that to engage in a hobby I enjoy(ed) – raiding – I have to go to the big woo-hah party. And that’s not only lacking in gameplay fun, but is mentally and emotionally stressful.

    • stoove says:

      Thanks for your comment! I hugely sympathise with the situation you’re in – I tend to feel isolated in large groups, too. I hope you find a way to enjoy your hobby again. =)

      By the way, I LOVE the phrase “shambling masses of statistics”. I shall try to fit it into my thesis 😛

      • Navigator Black says:

        😀
        Glad you liked the phrase. I feel that large raids take the person out of the situation and just replace them with statistics, large raids becoming highly animated spreadsheets of equations.
        10 mans are socially and tactically fun and rewarding.

  3. Salyéïn says:

    Hey Stoove. I’m a long time reader from all your wonderful statistics and theories who helped me being a great shaman these last three years. I highly agree with you. I’m a raid leader for 3 years now and it’s the first time I struggle having a good raid roster, with people who can have fun and progress together. Having 10 good people might be hard, but recruiting 10 more clearly ruins the fun. So we began a wide recruitement to be competitive on Mythic Highmaul but we barely defeated Twins in a month… quite disappointing when we were top 3 on our realm before. We expected to get 20 good and friendly players for Foundry but it’s tempting to be with your friends only with the flex system on normal and heroic. Lots of “big” guilds on my realm manage to build a 15 people roster, and pick-ups don’t help a lot when facing some bosses on Mythic. “Community will adapt” and I’m sure it will take a lot of time, maybe a year to adapt to 20-man raiding. But it’s not impossible to recruit some good players even if it takes time. I believe in “casualcore” ! (Excuse my english, I am french and it doesn’t help)

  4. Simon Harris says:

    Hi Stoove,

    Just put on Twitter that this blog post resonates so much with me, but felt I needed to expand upon it outside the confines of 140 characters. I’ve been part of two really successful 10 man Heroic raid teams since the end of Wrath up until the end of MoP. My sole purpose in the game was to get together with what became my friends and beat the hardest content that Blizzard had to offer. Everything else I did was to support my friends and I in our pursuits. I became a master of the Auction House, an achievement hunter and a mount whore. Being part of such a small, close knit group has led to some of the most incredible moments and was always the best part of the game.

    I’ve never enjoyed 25-man raiding. I’ve always felt disconnected from the rest of the group, rather than an integral part of a team. For me, the dynamics are all just wrong and hold no interest. Granted, it’s their game, but by making this sweeping change, Blizzard have totally invalidated my experiences and “love of the game”. Forcing these close knit 10-man groups into not just increasing, but doubling their rosters is a mistake. We can still raid as a 10-man group, but no longer at a difficulty level that provides the necessary challenge and incentive to login week after week, month after month.

    During the first couple of months of WoD, I enjoyed the levelling but 80% of my friends, both within my raid team and outside of it, have quit, primarily due to this change. I have no interest in raiding Flex or Normal as it’s no challenge. Nearly everyone I know who were trying to convert their solid 10-man rosters into 20-man rosters have failed and have either gone casual or quit entirely. Unfortunately, by the beginning of December, right in the early stages of this new expansion, I decided to not renew my subscriptions. I have two accounts – one for playing the game and one for playing the Auction House. All those things that I used to enjoy outside of raiding which kept me busy til the next raid night no longer have any attraction for me. Granted, that’s because some of those changes have irked me but, the root cause of my malaise is the massive overhaul of top tier progression raiding.

    It’s been six weeks since I quit and I can honestly say that the only thing I’m missing is getting together with my nine friends, twice a week, to kill the big bad. The fact that Blizzard felt that this wasn’t the way they wanted their game played is just nonsense. They’ve managed to totally invalidate the experiences of the majority of Heroic raiders.

    I find this really quite sad.

    -Simon

    • stoove says:

      Thanks for taking the time to write this, Simon. You’ve put many of the same feelings I have about the subject into some very elegant words!
      Steve

    • Navigator Black says:

      I think it’s not just heroic raiders, but anyone that enjoys a small raid experience. 10 man raid sizes were the best, and without a guild willing to strictly enforce 10 mans, we’re not likely to see them again. Those who enjoy the hardest levels of difficulty and challenge in small teams are forced into double-size groups, those who just like to raid are funneled into large haphazard clusters of people.

      Blizzard have effectively shut down small team raiding; the only people likely content with the new form of raiding are former 25 heroic raiders and extroverted “casual” raiders. Sure, you can do 10 mans, but as I said, need the discipline and leadership to enforce them.

  5. Pingback: What’s Going on with Mythic? | World of Matticus

  6. Sven says:

    This move to 20 man only for the highest level of raiding totally killed our guild as a raiding guild too.

    We were a tight 10 man guild with very little roster turnover (maybe 2 or 3 people a year) who could clear 10 man normal in a month or 2 then progress through the heroic bosses for the rest of the tier – usually not clearing on heroic but would get towards the last few bosses. We only raided 2 nights a week for a total of 7 hours but we got to participate, even if many months behind the top guilds, in the highest level of raiding on offer. We had some players who regularly ranked on World of Logs and could have held their own in any world top 50 guild but were happy to play with friends on a non-demanding schedule.

    Setting the bar at 20 players for Mythic by Blizzard seemed to be the perfect way for Blizzard to flip the bird at our guild and the many, many others in our situation. 25 man guilds didn’t need to change much, 10 man guilds that would spend an entire tier just getting up to the final boss on normal would now have it easier as everything at their level was now flexible and x-realm – but for the 1000s of 10 man guilds that cleared normal in good time and dabbled in heroics – there were only 2 options. Go more casual (and potentially lose your better raiders) or go more hardcore and recruit recruit recruit (extra work, drama, stress). Oh – and the 3rd option that we did end up taking – stop being a raiding guild.

    The opportunity to log in a couple of times a week with our friends and work on downing the next heroic (now mythic) boss was gone. Clearing the new flexible heroic content in a month then farming it for the next 5+ months held no appeal with no realistic opportunity to step up to mythic without fundamentally changing the guild we loved. And once the draw of raiding was gone then everything else in the game became more obviously frivolous or a just a plain chore. So people quit instead of finding another guild.

  7. leftyblank says:

    This really struck a chord with me. An awesome read as it gave me some rueful solace after the past 4 or so months of raiding agony.

    You lasted a lot longer than I did in terms of persevering. I threw in the towel as GM of my TBC guild due to the strains you detailed. We had a great 10 man team. We raided 2 pw for 7 hours total, we sang on vent, we trolled each other, we were on first name basis. Basically the majority of these guys were my best friends. I enjoyed their company more than my limited RL friendships. We ended MoP raiding in May, long before WoD hit, thinking we hhad time on our side to adjust to 20 man Mythic. Oh how wrong we were.

    This tale ends with me jumping ship in November. I basically had a break down caused by the strain from recruitment and trying to keep our close bond going. The trade off was impossible for us, you are definitely not alone.

    I made a decision a few weeks ago that I would never take an Officer role up again. I joined a guild on a different server and faction where I knew nobody. I have told them that when I sign I am dependable but outside of raids I don’t commit to the social side anymore. I lost too many friends due to failing to adapt. Now I play to kill bosses in an environment where I don’t care about my fellow raiders and they don’t care about me. Whether this is rewarding enough only time will tell.

    p.s I love this site. Ty.

  8. Inq says:

    ring a Circle:

    This really struck a chord with me. An awesome read as it gave me some rueful solace after the past 4 or so months of raiding agony.

    You lasted a lot longer than I did in terms of persevering. I threw in the towel as GM of my TBC guild due to the strains you detailed. We had a great 10 man team. We raided 2 pw for 7 hours total, we sang on vent, we trolled each other, we were on first name basis. Basically the majority of these guys were my best friends. I enjoyed their company more than my limited RL friendships. We ended MoP raiding in May, long before WoD hit, thinking we hhad time on our side to adjust to 20 man Mythic. Oh how wrong we were.

    This tale ends with me jumping ship in November. I basically had a break down caused by the strain from recruitment and trying to keep our close bond going. The trade off was impossible for us, you are definitely not alone.

    I made a decision a few weeks ago that I would never take an Officer role up again. I joined a guild on a different server and faction where I knew nobody. I have told them that when I sign I am dependable but outside of raids I don’t commit to the social side anymore. I lost too many friends due to failing to adapt. Now I play to kill bosses in an environment where I don’t care about my fellow raiders and they don’t care about me. Whether this is rewarding enough only time will tell.

    p.s I love your blogs and shaman theory. Ty.

    • Navigator Black says:

      “Now I play to kill bosses in an environment where I don’t care about my fellow raiders and they don’t care about me”.

      I wonder if this is what Blizzard wants, because it’s definitely going to be a lot more common amongst former strict 10 man heroic raiders. I’d love to hear Blizz’s response to the comments and sentiments outlined on Stoove’s articles on this subject. I wonder if they’ll implement a Mythic 10.
      Personally, I don’t have an interest in Mythic, it’s beyond my ability (I suspect), but it would be really nice to see some “sweet spot” optimisation or incentive for 10 man size in all difficulties (save for LFR).

  9. Mark says:

    I genuinely miss the early days of Harvest Moon. You were the first person I recruited for the raid team, and if you remember I promised a casual, fun atmosphere based around not burning ourselves out while also killing bosses. And we managed it (eventually) on 1 night a week. ONE!

    Then obviously, into MoP – you rejoined us after some more heroic adventures 😉 – and we were on 2 nights a week trying to push into heroic. It became tense, because we were starting to exclude people based on performance, rather than having them along because we wanted their company.

    You guys went from strength to strength after I left, and I went on to join a guild who cleared 13/14 Mythic SoO before 6.0.

    And now? I’ve stopped raiding completely. I saw the changes in my team to meet the challenges of Mythic and dropped out before 6.0 even landed. I don’t mind the challenge, but the change in how guild leadership needs to think to meet mythic requirements – a larger roster (for previously 10 man guilds), and tightly-tuned content – ended up turning the team into one I just didn’t want to be a part of.

    So, like I said, I miss those early days. We still had a to fit around a limited roster of 10, but it allowed for a more tight-knit community. The more casual nature for people still wanting to push content is now given way a more business-like approach. Fine for purely-progress minded teams, but death for casual-minded ones.

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