First, I'd like to touch on the history:
Ten-man raids had been available in previous editions of the game, but they were not available for all of the content, so the vast majority of raiding guilds were built for 25-man (or earlier, 40-man) raiding. Ten-strict raiding is a format that became available at the beginning of the WotLK expansion for raiders who wanted to see all of the available content, but without having to deal with the bureaucracy of a larger guild. It was an interesting experiment. Many say that it was aimed at "casuals," but it also catered to a small subset of burnt-out officers and raiders who would otherwise have just quit the game from the social drama seen in larger raiding guilds.
In trade for the smaller, less-traumatic raid organization, these newly formed guilds had lesser rewards. Their gear would be "subpar," making PvP and pugs slightly more difficult, and they would constantly have to put up with many (not all) of the "better geared" 25-man raiders sneering down their noses at their gear, raid style choice, and achievements.
In spite of this, it WAS chosen by many, and not just those "casuals." Guilds like Vox Immortalis formed, striving for progression with all the intensity of a hardcore world-leading 25-man guild. Guilds like my own Vortex formed, a bit more relaxed but still quite serious about skill and dedication to the guild's progression. Other guilds formed, taking things at a somewhat slower, more casual pace. Some 10-man guilds opted to allow their members to pug 25s, while others opted to take the strict rankings. Some guilds formed that were the stereotypical casual 10-man team: a bunch of friends dabbling in raids for fun and not putting any headache into it. This is the same gamut of raiding focus seen in the 25-man raiding scene, just on a far smaller scale, as each player CHOSE to forgo the higher rewards in favor of the more intimate, smaller guild.
- Roster Size
- Time Commitment
- Raiding Experience
- Performance Expectations
These guilds must hunt down players who are interested in purely 10-man format. This meant giving up 25-man pugging if you wanted to be truly ranked as strict: tackling the content with the item levels and loot table it was balanced for. GuildOx set the ground rules for this as the only ranking site that acknowledged 10-man raiding, using the guild's kills and achievements to monitor whether they were raiding or pugging 25mans that would give them an edge with gear.
The GuildOx rules were such (at the time of ICC's release):
|The 10-man strict rankings show the achievements of pure 10-man raiding guilds. A 'pure' 10-man raiding guild is one that does not participate in 25m progression content. We recognize that 25-man guilds or guilds that regularly participate in 25m pug runs often have a distinct advantage since they can gear up at accelerated rates and move faster through 10-man content. Consequently, our 10-man strict rankings exclude guilds which access any 25-man content that offers higher ilvl gear than what the current 10-man normal content provides. If you are a 10m guild that has members which want to run 25 man pugs then the 'strict' classification is not for you.|
Guilds will be excluded when they earn any Icecrown Citadel (ICC) 25 normal kills or any TotGC 25 hard-mode kills. Guilds must also have their 10M Progress World Rank be better than (lower than) their 25M Progress World Rank.
We have added a special trigger for the ICC 25 normal kills that will exclude a guild from strict rankings when 8 players achieve it over time. For example, if your guild pugs ICC 25 normal then you will be excluded from the strict rankings when a total of 8 players in your guild participate in the Lord Marrowgar 25 normal kill. Please ensure you discourage your guild members from participating in any ICC 25 normal and TotGC 25 hard-mode runs if you wish to remain on the strict rankings. Also be sure minimize the recruitment of players that have previously achieved these kills since they will contribute to the guild total, regardless of when they achieved it. VoA 25 and Onyxia 25 are exempt from the criteria and can be run without risking your 10m strict rankings.
Some 10-man guilds were more casual and ignored the GuildOx criteria, allowing their raiders to pug 25s: they are not included on the strict rankings, and thus loose that extra bit of advertisement for new players to track them down. 10 man casual rankings were added later to GuildOx to track these guilds. As you can imagine, though, even those recruiting for purely strict (and its subsequent lack of legendaries and superior item levels) have a tough go of finding players. While there are fewer players needed to fill the roster, finding players who don't care in some way about item levels and "best gear" is a truly difficult task.
If a ten-man guild picks up players who really are just interested in gear, then the guild is nothing but a stepping stone, and they'll have to recruit to fill that spot again in a short time. 10-man guild recruitment is very difficult in WotLK.
Beyond this, 10-mans often need to recruit for very specific class/spec combinations to provide a certain buff--and offspec tank or healing role--for their raid. Applicants' secondary specs need to be reviewed in far more detail than for 25-mans, as well, because WotLK 10-mans often require a raider to swap their spec, even if they are a pure DPS class.
Cataclysm will broaden the interested pool as greed towards item levels, the "best" drops, is removed as a stigma against 10-man guilds. Granted, there will be a smaller pool for recruitment for 25s due to the larger number of 10-mans that will form, but I doubt it will be as difficult to recruit for 25s in Cata as 10-strict recruitment is in WotLK. Things will certainly be shaken up on the recruitment front in Cataclysm for both sides.
In terms of offspec and specific class recruitment, the previously released plans for the homogenization of class buffs and skills for Cataclysm hint at making this a bit less of a hassle in a "bring the player, not the class" sort of way, but buffs will still be limited to certain classes. Thus, recruitment will still be more specific than just a "looking for a ranged dps."
Every expansion has seen the rise and fall of guilds. It is a prime time for guilds to disintegrate and others to form, as differing goals and personalities create rifts in a guild and fresh guilds tempt players to "greener" pastures. The small leveling scene is ripe for meeting and recruiting new players, especially as some guildies level more slowly than others and leave the fast-levelers bored and looking for parties to play with. Cataclysm will be no different, it will just have the additional choice of recruiting players based on your advertised raid size: some players will still prefer 25s, others will look to 10s. The guilds that hold together for 25s will be those that are most successful in maintaining a raiding core and recruiting as they level. Some 25-man guilds may voluntarily fracture, or stick together for a pair of 10-man raids that has a larger, more vocal guild community to participate in outside of raid times.
10man is still difficult content when wearing the appropriate iLevel gear. No 10-strict guild has killed LK-hardmode yet, as of my typing this (Edit: the first 10-strict HLK kill occurred almost 4 months after posting this), and not for lack of skill or trying. There is still a pressure to perform if you want to be "cutting edge" progression on the 10-man listings, just as much as there is in 25s. There are guilds in 25-man gear who still haven't cleared normal 10man, and pugs don't get far past the first wing (as of time of writing). Some mechanics are easier with 10m, others are harder. Raid composition is a struggle when fighting new bosses, and dual specs are required even among pure DPS, so they can swap between certain spec strengths or buffs.
Most players view 10mans as easy. In 25man gear, yes, it is much easier. Even in full 251/264 gear, the normal mode ICC content can be laughable (if you know the strats): you're meant to be doing hardmodes then (especially with the ever-growing zone-wide buffs in ICC!). The minor stat upgrades on gear make a huge difference in overall health pools, healing power, and mana, and the instance isn't always properly balanced towards this. Sometimes the mechanics are accidentally left on 25-man mode (see Rotface ooze spawns at ICC's release). However, because most raiders are in 25s and use the 10s as a more casual, fun, badge-farming run, they have trouble believing that the 10s may actually be difficult for someone who is not overgeared for it, while often at the same time barking about their gearscores and requiring certain gear levels for their pugs. Irony?
Outside of those who forget or underestimate the gear differential, some like to harp on the smaller raid size making it easier to spread out, ignoring that this is easily fixed by other mechanics such as the need for AoE heals (and their limited range) or regrouping mechanisms for things like the council's flame orbs, or that the smaller size can be countered by the devs altering splash radius, growth speed, or increasing the size of void zones. This prevents a 10-man raid from making use of all the available space, especially when they don't have the same health pools or spellpower to handle less AoE healing.
For further details on 10 vs 25 man instance difficulty, you can read my previous post here.
Many have wondered at Cataclysm's making the 10s and 25s "equal difficulty," thinking it to mean that either 10s will suddenly become incredibly hard or 25s will become easy. This stems from the misconception that 10s are easy content. I think it means, instead, that the devs don't want the raiders used to steam-rolling 10s in their 25m gear to think they can have an easy time on the future 10s. It's not so much a "change" as a statement of how it will be, that the instance will be balanced to the expected gear levels.
I think it also means they're going to be very careful (read: more careful than they were in WotLK) balancing the raid difficulty across an instance, based on mechanics and typical raid compositions. Some bosses may be easier on one raid size or another, but I believe they'll be balanced out by other bosses in the same instance. 10-strict is a challenge now, and raiding progression 10s won't be a walk in the park in Cata, either, for anyone.
3) Guild Size and Roster
10-strict guilds have a small raiding roster of (usually) 13 to 14 players. This allows for about 2 extra players available per party to sub in for fights based on raid composition or simply absences: a ratio seen in 25-mans as well, where 35 raiders is a common roster size. Dualspecs allow coverage of tanking and healing roles. The raiders will need to be rotated through the week to allow all players a chance at the limited content, however.
14 is, plain and simple, an easier group to manage than 35. With a little under half the players to be wrangled, this is the draw that 10-strict players have in WotLK to run in this format. It is less stressful from an officer stand point, all players can be more involved in the guild and be heard, and it is easier to get to know all of the players and watch for mistakes. Loot distribution is far, far easier: a simple, quick discussion usually settles it, sometimes a roll, though items tend to be disenchanted at a far higher rate for lack of a present player who wants them.
If you're looking for an active community, however, you need to look to 25-man guilds: most 10-man guilds are going to be rather quiet on off-nights, especially if they don't have a large number of casual friends and family hanging out with them. Personality and your ability to get along with your fellow guildies is also a big deal, given the smaller guild size: these are the few you have to help you, and the few who will be asking for YOUR help on heroics, side raids, achievements, and random farming or PvP sprees.
This won't change with Cataclysm, except in cases where a large guild decides to host 2 or more 10-man raiding teams in place of running 25-mans. At that point, you could conceivably have a community-guild feel with a ten-man raid style. However, with that comes the added difficulty of internal competition, as players on the less-progressed team may feel envious of the more-progressed team, and shared guild materials may be fought over as well; it will take careful community management to prevent the two groups from splitting the guild. Pros and cons!
4) Time Commitment
Most 25-man guilds felt pressured to run both 25s and tens to maximize their badges and pick up a few minor upgrades where they were either missed in the previous tier's 25man or due to the discrepancy between the loot tables (more on that, later). Many of these guilds raided 5, 6, or even 7 nights a week; some required offnight 10-man raids, even if they didn't advertise it in their raid schedule.
A few ten-man guilds require a similar time commitment as they spend the entire week working on a certain boss or achievement. Some follow a more casual schedule of 2 or 3 nights, allowing their raiders some freetime each week for alts, farming, or just being off the game to tend to other activities such as martial arts, sports, evening jobs, or family activities. Some 10-man guilds decide to pug 25s or create guild alliances to raid 25s (though these guilds were not technically "strict"), and used those to fill the time.
Thus, for any given raider in a progression-driven guild with a pressure to perform their best, the overall time commitment to raiding for 10-man guilds is a bit less than those in 25s. Dailies may still be expected and farming for consumable/enchant materials is a given, but actual raiding hours are (in most cases) less intensive for the ten-man raids, just because they do not require 25-mans as well (a few rare exceptions exist). This helps to avoid burnout, which makes the format further attractive to those raiders who would otherwise have just quit the game.
The devs do not want 10s to be required by 25-man guilds to maximize badges, leading to both the shared lockout and the cap on cataclysm's badge/point system. It is unknown at this point what that will mean for players who use tens to fill their week: whether there will be content available for them (and that doesn't count the pre-farmed instances they've grown bored of) or whether they'll have to spend more time with alts, or whether they'll be encouraged by randomized loading screen messages to get up and spend an evening out doing community service or sports (or partying).
Ten-man guilds who pug 25s or run them in a guild-alliance will also loose that weekly activity, leaving them in the same boat. 10-strict is probably the only raiding format that will not be heavily impacted by the shared lockout.
In a more intimate 10m raiding size, there is still a need for some leadership, but it is less rigid and demanding than in 25-mans. There is certainly still work to be done, everything from rule-enforcement to recruitment to drama-referee to decision-making (be it dictator or just prompting votes), even to enforcing consumables and proper spec/gear/enchants, but it is more manageable than with a 25-man guild because there are fewer cats to herd.
Overall (and this has been supported by those in the comments), 10man guilds have a more transparent leadership and decision-making system. The whole guild can more easily be involved in all decisions; at the least, having the members understand why rules or decisions are made--and that their opinions were heard--makes for a more happy membership. People want to be heard, and a smaller guild makes it much easier for leaders to listen to everyone. This results in less drama, rumor-mongering, and misunderstandings, though it does not make them immune.
Thus far, nothing will change that. Again, the only exception may be the guilds hosting two or more ten-man raids, which will have the added bureaucracy of trying to keep the different raid teams from going at each others' throats.
6) The Raiding Experience
The "epic feel" of a 25-man raid, where you're a part of an army taking down colossal monsters, is a big contrast to the more intimate 10m raid. Each has its pros and cons: 25 mans are more likely to have all of the available class and spec combinations, all available buffs, etc. This makes it far easier to theorycraft caps on stats like hit, haste, etc, as the raider can assume they'll always have the buffs that boost them. Each individual player compounds the likelihood of a mistake, which is especially problematic in cases where that mistake may wipe the raid. The spell effects and additional players make it more taxing on a computer system, as well, though it does add to the grand feeling of the larger assault raid. 25s are also more capable of carrying a weaker player (be it skill, experience, or gear) than a strict-10 can support into a progression fight, provided that player's death or disconnect (DC) doesn't automatically wipe the rest of the raid.
10s, however, have a less chaotic feel, as if they're a small, surgical strike squad. Ventrilo conversations can be held more easily as there are fewer voices fighting for attention, and the raid leader is less likely to be missed or spoken over (my 40-man guild used to play music in vent during raids just to keep people quieter). Fewer spell effects and fewer player models can make it easier to see boss effects like void zones. The raid composition itself must be more fluid, dynamic, and flexible, with raiders shifting specs and gear to meet optimized raid compositions, buffs (including resistance buffs, tank cooldowns, and healing niches), or stat caps. This in turn puts a higher demand on individual player skill, as they must often be able to perform in different specs or roles. Each death also has a greater impact on the raid than in a 25: you are 10% of the raid in a 10man, as opposed to 4% of the raid in a 25-man.
I'm not expecting a change to the overall feel of the "grand assault" 25-man army and the "intimate" 10-man strike-team. These will probably be the biggest deciding factors for players in which format they choose.
I do, however, expect the buff situation to change: the homogenization of buffs (including cleanses) and the smudging of healer niches planned for Cataclysm are for the purpose of 10-man raid balance. While I regret (seriously, I do regret) the homogenization of these buffs and skills that make many classes/specs unique, it will make organizing tens' raid composition much easier.
You don't join a ten-man guild in WotLK if you care about having the best gear in the game. Ten-man players usually care about their gear, but the gear is not why they are playing the game: they have placed their priorities on the experience rather than having the best loot. 25s, meanwhile, are run by a mix of those who just prefer the larger format, by those that feel obligated to run them because their close friends all want the larger format, or by those who simply want the best gear in the game.
This doesn't mean ten-man players are all lax on enchants, gems, or finding upgrades where available. This doesn't mean that some are not jealous of the better gear. This doesn't mean it won't hurt their ego or feelings when others laugh at their lower gear or brush off their achievements, when they know that they probably have more skill and experience than the one who is laughing at them (those that laugh are often those that were carried by their 25-man guilds: interwebs bully covering for their own insecurities). All it means is that they valued the experience of seeing the content--without the drama of a 25-man guild--over getting the best gear.
Unfortunately, WotLK had separate loot tables for 10s and 25s. While 25s could slip into an "easy" 10 to farm some gear, 25-man pugs are generally more difficult to organize and run than 10-man pugs due to the number of random players involved, and the "strict" 10-man guilds couldn't even allow it for risk of falling off the ranking sites. Ranking sites are important not only for some players' ego or need for accomplishment (e-peen), but also as a recruitment tool to help advertise themselves to the scarce players who are trying to find a ten-strict home.
Item drops that were usually found in 25s and not in tens include decent trinkets and healing offhand items (excluding shields), and legendary weapons. Sometimes a certain gear slot (belt, boots, wrists) itemized for a certain spec or role could only be found by crafting, or even as an Auction House purchase as a BoE 25-man drop. Itemization of drops in terms of a spec's needed stats was not always met, especially in terms of ArP, spirit, or haste. 10m loot tables were truly tested and experimented on throughout the expansion. As these items (especially trinkets and legendaries) made such a huge difference in DPS or healing, it further widened the gear gap and relative difficulty of instances for 10man guilds vs 25s.
Things like DKP aren't really needed for 10man, because it is much easier to track who needs an item, who has more recently gotten gear, and who it is a bigger upgrade for. A quick and painless discussion, maybe mediated by a /roll, is all that is necessary. This saves a lot of time and headache: trust me, I've helped run DKP databases AND loot councils before!
There are also some ten-strict guilds who would "cheat" the GuildOx ranking system, allowing a small handful of their raiders to continue to run 25s after joining the guild to maximize their gear and pick up the exceptional upgrades that are found in the 277 gear levels--and things like trinkets and legendaries--all in an effort to overcome the content and progression rankings more quickly. While this is not in the spirit of 10-strict, GuildOx's buffers against recruitment of 25-man geared raiders had the downside of allowing this to happen. Most guilds did not do this, but a handful did. There was, of course, some amount of drama on the progression threads stemming from this as every little piece of gear was brought into question, whether it could have been a legendary earned after joining the guild or even if it was a side-grade pair of boots earned before joining the guild. Personally, I frowned upon the blatant cheating, but I can't begrudge someone wearing gear they'd won in a previous guild before being recruited by the ten-strict guild.
* Let's call it "creative use of ranking loopholes."
With shared loot tables, itemization discrepancy will no longer be an issue. 25s will no longer feel compelled to slip into 10s (even though they will be unable to without locking themselves out of 25 for the week) for the sake of a certain drop, and 10s will no longer be in subpar gear sitting jealous of a trinket. The difference in gearing will be a matter of speed and the raid's skill: the devs have not yet said the exact planned drop rates, except to say that they want 25-mans to gear up overall faster than 10-mans, as the reward for their more difficult organization (which is mostly shouldered by only a few players in that large raid, anyway). This includes both drops and badge/points. They may change their minds about this, however, as the question of how to award those few who shoulder the burden of leadership without also awarding those who did no additional work continues to be considered.
8) Performance Expectations
Just as with 25-man guilds, there are 10-man guilds on each end of the friendship vs progression spectrum (otherwise known as the casual vs elitist jerks spectrum), and many all along the line in between. Some guilds are very "casual" and forgiving in how they raid: if someone is always standing in fires, they may moan and groan about it, but it's their buddy and they laugh and roll their eyes and try to just carry him/her along. Other guilds on the opposite end of the spectrum won't allow that player to step foot in their raids, even if they're married to a raider, unless it's farmed content they can easily 9-man. Some guilds will be forced to bench you if you seek to swap mains to a class they don't need; others will try to fit the new character in even if it hurts raid composition.
Similarly, some guilds may ignore that their friend is suddenly lagging behind in performance for unknown reasons, while another 10-man guild may bring the situation into question, seeking to help that player improve and fix whatever the problem is (be it a patch change they missed, a mechanic they don't understand, or that they're simply having a bad day) before bringing them to the next progression attempt that "stellar performance" is required at.
There is no difference in how a guild handles friendships vs performance between the two raid sizes: it is all a choice of the people who are playing in it, and how they want to play.
However, most ten-man guilds are built with a wish to play with like-minded players who are friends, people that they actually like. As a smaller community, there is more importance placed on getting along with each other, as a ten-man guild is usually too small to support separate cliques. Proper recruitment steps will, in most cases, prevent the need to remove a raider based on performance, should a guild decide to place performance over friendship in progression raiding. More often, a player will be replaced from attendance issues rather than performance.
There will be no change in this. Guilds can choose for themselves how demanding they are of their raiders' performance or class/spec, no matter what raid size they have.
Hopefully this will dispel some of the mystery or misconceptions about 10-man raiding. Fellow 10-man/10-strict raiders, please comment if you have more to add!
- Keeva at TBJ later posted a good explanation of why some players feel obligated to run 25s in WotLK even though they prefer 10s.
- Maestro at RDR makes several excellent points towards the equalization of 10 and 25-man gear, in regards to obligations vs rewards in WotLK.
Oh, a shout-out to some of my fellow 10-man bloggers who have commented on the Cata raiding changes: