Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Is it Greener on the Other Side?

This post is a word of warning to those in 25 mans looking to "jump the fence," as it were, for Cataclysm, to form a 10-man raid. There are pros, and there are cons, and some things are not easier. Before you decide, I want to make sure myths or misunderstandings are dispelled.

For starters, I really recommend reading through my post on what 10-strict raiding is like. It's long, it's in-depth, and it's as accurate as I can make it. It has far more detail than this post.

Raid Difficulty vs Gear:

If you're used to thinking of tens as easier because you were wearing 25-man gear, think again. 10s were balanced for 10-man gear in WotLK. Some food for thought: no ten-strict guild has yet downed Lich King hardmode, yet. Still. All these months. If you want to think it's from lack of skill, think again, and pull your head out of the sand. It's a matter of that slight bit more health, damage, and healing/shielding output: it does make a significant difference in survival and length of the phases.

It's not going to be a walk in the park in Cataclysm. Don't go to 10s just because you think the content will be easier.

Raiding Roster and Attendance:

The average raiding roster for a 25-man is about 35 people: 2 extra players per party in the raid. My own guild uses a roster of 14, which is the exact same ratio, except has less room to ratio between an extra tank or healer vs dps (that's where offspecs come in!).

There will still be attendance problems. Some raiders will stop raiding and you'll have to recruit a new one in their place. Some will have family emergencies, etc. And each one of them that has this crop up will be that much of your raid disappearing. It's about proportional. We've had to kill the Lich King with 9 raiders before; my guild also earned Less is More in Naxx very, very quickly.

When you drop your raiding roster down for 10's, your attendance problems will not disappear: instead, you'll have to pug up a player or run undermanned, and won't have an option to split up the raid and do separate 10's.


Guess what? That PvP offspec may have to go the way of the dodo in a 10. With fewer people in the raid, flexibility for raid roles (tank, healer, dps) and even particular spec strengths (replenishment, AoE, magic type) comes down to each player having a PvE offspec... and they need to be able to play it well, and gear it, and use it. This means pulling a tank into a healing role, something significantly different than what they're used to. Or a healer into a tank role. Or DPS. If your class has more than one role it can play, be ready to get to know one of them very intimately.**

Every class has a different PvE spec they can set up as an offspec, and many of them require, at the least, different gear stats to maximize and a new set of abilities to learn how to use. For example:
  • A warlock? Afflic and Destro are your two trees (as far as WotLK is concerned), be ready to swap it around and know how to rock out with both.
  • Mage? Hmm replenishment may come into play, some times, or mana-management, or AoE from ze bombs.
  • A priest normally holy with a DPS offspec? What if a fight suddenly demands disc?
  • A resto druid who's scared of playing feathers? Get over it, starfall is OP (yes, this one's aimed straight at myself!)
  • Rogue: personal single-target performance, or AoE love with a nice dps raid buff... or the best spec for dpsing with anesthetic poison?

A 25-man raider is more likely to get away with a single spec in their raids. In progressive 10's? Not so much. You need to know all the PvE aspects of your class... and you may not have another person of your class in your guild to look to for help.

Even aside from specs, hybrid roles need to be observed to maximize the raid's effectiveness, to make up for the smaller number of players in each role. Your DPSers need to help cleanse. Your ele shaman or shadow priest will need to suddenly swap to healing mid-fight as a healer dies or is ported into another plane of existence. Your cat will need to bear it up to take on some adds that are otherwise running rampant while your moonkin pulls off a battle-res on the tank. Your resto druid might need to cyclone something, or warstomp.

There's more offspec, offrole weight on the shoulders of each player in a 10m.

**EDIT: Erick's comment did remind me to add that some 10-man guilds might not care as much about hardcore progression, and so they might not require all of their players to forgo their pvp offspecs in favor of progression in pve. If this is a potential issue for your guild, I recommend addressing it before it causes too much strife as different players have differing opinions on how hardcore-PvE the guild should be.

**Along the same lines: there are some pvp specs that, while not absolutely optimal, could manage in a pve setting, depending on what talents were skipped in favor of pvp ones.

Easier Achievements?

You've likely heard the argument by now: "there's no way to balance the content exactly equally." To the nitpicky extents, this is true. We see it in the fact that no 10-strict guild has downed hardmode LK10, yet 25m has downed hardmode LK25. Could it be balanced, by lessening the severity of the fight? Sure... but after the fact. It'd take far too much time in testing/development to fully and equally balance the fights before live release to be worth it, monetarily.

I really hope there will be a separate achievement tracking system for 10s and for 25s. Separate ranking systems. The 25s stand on their own; the 10s stand on their own. Otherwise each dungeon tier may be dominated one way or the other due to slight discrepancies in balance, to the point that the most hardcore guilds have to swap between 10s and 25s regularly to strive for those world-firsts. You can imagine the logistical nightmare.

Don't go into tens expecting to get achievements easier. It's going to swing both ways. Some fights will be easier on 25, some will be easier on 10. It's the same way, now. Things can be balanced closely, but never 100%, and when it comes to world-firsts, that matters.

Choose carefully when looking ahead for your raid size format. Don't pick it because the grass looks greener: pick it because you LIKE the raid size itself, from its social aspects. Pick it because you want that weight on your shoulders as a 10-man raider requiring more flexibility or you want to be a face in the crowd that plays one spec; pick it because you like the intimacy of a smaller group, or because you want to be raiding with an army.


Rades said...

Nice analysis on 10-man raiding. I strongly agree with the bit about offspecs. My guild only does 10s, and we constantly have to switch to different alts each week depending on what we have to work with.

Quick hunter-related note about offspec versatility/raid value: I believe that hunter pets are being modified to provide mini-buffs/debuffs to make up for not having the "real" buff class in the raid. Probably things like mini-bloodlust, mini-bleeds, mini-faerie fire, etc. So that might help!

Vidyala said...

Great post, Kae, and so true. I have to be twice the player I would otherwise be - keeping up to date on resto stuff as well as balance, which is my primary focus. I love it though, and wouldn't change a thing.

I'm excited for when ten-man content will be balanced properly, because having heroic TLK kicking our ass with very little hope of progressing is so frustrating. Not that we're not trying regardless, but still. Not even the tops strict tens have done it. Even with the gear upgrades we can get by continuing to get tokens and other 264 upgrades, we'll still never be able to access the best trinkets and other unique items that come from ICC 25. But I've gotten a bit off-topic. :)

Erick said...

Well in my case I would search for another guild, why in the world would I jump into a roll I don't enjoy? for the sake of the progression? for the fun of everyone but you? because you're obligated to guild so you NEED to leave you're healing PvP for tanking because guild says so? No, I would simply look for another guild, when you're obligated to do something you don't like or want to, the fun is out of the game...

Kae said...


Unfortunately, that is the way it is for the more "hardcore" of any size of guilds. Sometimes we have to do something we don't enjoy for a specific boss fight in order to finally succeed. Sometimes it's something as crazy as telling a healer to strap on their offspec cat kit and offtank Sindragosa, with her eyes bugging out with every frost breath!

A 25 is just more likely to have someone else to fill in that offspec for you, and that may make 25s a better choice for you.

Now, there are some ten-man guilds who might be fine letting a player keep their offspec for pvp to themselves, but it will hurt progression if there's no one else in the roster (especially if someone can't make it that night) to do it.

As a caveat to myself, individual pvp specs may still work okay in the pve setting, depending on what sorts of talents were skipped for it. :)

Zy said...

Folks who are used to primarily raiding in 25 man groups are going to find the intimacy of 10 mans to be a bit of a shock. Yes, you have fewer players to worry about but each player matters so much more. One person doesn't show up for your 25 man? Not a biggie. One person doesn't show up for your 10 man? That's a minimum of 10% of your raid. And if it's your replenishment ret pally who offtanks some fights. . . Well then you have a serious problem. As you mentioned you've probably got fewer folks on the sidelines to fill in.

Not to mention it's easier to carry folks in 25 mans. Four healers can cover for the not-so-good fifth. That one DPSer that always stands in fire and spends most of the fight not helping much isn't a big deal in a big group but will probably kill a smaller one. And so forth.

Beranabus said...


I know exactly how you feel. Our guild recently lost our 3rd dedicated healer and now I seem to be the go-to guy for 3 heal fights. It seems that as the weeks go on, healing gets more and more tedious for me. I'd much rather sit back and fire muh lazer beams, but in all honesty, it's something that has to be done. When you play a hybrid class, especially Druid, or Paladin, you are more often than not expected or asked to be good at more than one spec. Like Kae said, in 10 mans there just are not those extra people to fill in gaps that are left by people that are missing a raid. There are also examples of fights such as Blood Princes, which we 4 heal. If our hybrids decided they didn't want their healing specs, but instead wanted to just pvp, then we'd be SoL.

But, when it all comes down to it, it's a game have fun with whatever you want to do. If you're not at the end of cutting edge progression than having a 2nd PvE spec will definitely not make that big of a difference. :)

Kae said...

Agreed, Zy.

Ahh yes, the replenishment not showing up... again with the offspecs. Hey, lock/hunter/mage, care to respec?

2 tanks in your roster. One doesn't show up (family emergency, sick, etc). Guess who's tanking H-LK? <3

3 healers. One stops raiding. Guess who can't miss a raid until a new one is recruited? Guess who has to fill in as third healer on some fights?

Fun times, and major props to all my wonderful guildies with their offspecs :) Some serious hybrid-love in ten-mans, too, certainly!

Kayeri said...

Yep, the hybrids HAVE to be flexible, especially in a 10-man format... Kayeri is a healer... her first talent point was in the resto tree, she leveled from 1-80 as Resto... I didn't pick up a balance offspec until mid-LK, and I just toyed with it, honestly. Well, there we are at the Lich King fight and the raid leadership decides a boomkin with Starfall and Typhoon might give us an edge on the Vile Spirits in phase 3... The other tree in our guild is a kitty in her offspec.

Suddenly, I'm a raiding boomkin... so, a self-researched crash course in boomkinning, instruction from a raiding boomkin I know, an add-on to help me track stuff, and a few hours at the training dummy, and suddenly I'm not healing the biggest fight of this xpac. But the raid leadership was right, we downed him the next time in. Flexibility is key, and you do what you can to get the job done.

That was four weeks ago, and I'm still REALLY insecure about my dps, as it's not as consistent as I would like... but the guild needed the abilities of that class & spec to get the job done. I was glad I could deliver.

Hana said...

My 10-man guild does not make it a formal requirement to dedicate both specs to PvE, but it's one of the questions we ask all potential applicants and in practice all of our raiders other than the MT (who we've never asked to dps) have two PvE specs. We only run with 11 raiders so if it's a choice between the hybrid who dedicates both specs and the hybrid who doesn't, it's easy to see who has the edge in the application process.

If someone's not happy about it, well, we're probably not the guild for them. Even our mage has two PvE specs, one specifically to deal with those pesky Vile Spirits in the LK fight, and another for general purpose raiding.

No one is ever forced to change their main spec though, and their off-specs are their choice. We recruit a main spec healer if we need more healers. But it's good to know we have back-up tanks/healers in a pinch. My first ever boss fight as a resto druid was Heroic Marrowgar (I literally respecced as the raid was assembling in the instance), but it turns out that's what the guild needed so my off-spec is now resto for the foreseeable future.

I still consider myself a boomer for life, but I'm not above helping out the guild so the raid can keep running. With only 11 people there's very little leeway to not take advantage of hybrid specs.

Jen said...

I'm not in a 10-strict guild, but most of this applies. We left 25-man guilds, so we've got better gear than 10-strict raiders, but the roster is tight and offspecs are gold. I'm probably one of the few people in the guild who doesn't play their offspecs a lot - since we only have 2 main spec healers with 100% attendance, and the 3rd is come and go, my moonkining skills go unsused.

But the other people? Oh yeah. Our warrior and DK offtank, our rogue geared a tank to let them DPS, our main tank heals, our ele shammy heals... Some of them don't like it very much, but they do it for the good of the guild. Having been in-game friends for a while before actually making the guild is a big plus.

When people apply, we ask about offspecs, but they're not required. If we get 2 apps, one with a geared offspec and another without? Well, it's clear which we'll prefer...

It might sound like a pain in the ass to others, but I'm enjoying it, even if I'm new to the 10-man scene. ME and MY offspec can make a difference /flex

Avatar said...

From everything that blizzard has said they won't have separate achievements for 25 vs 10. I do agree with your analysis regarding it could be just as difficult if there are attendance issues, thats something I am trying to prepare my guild regarding the scenarios that could happen

Kae said...

I hope they reconsider with the achievements, Avatar. Otherwise raid size-swapping and trying to be the first guild to figure out which size is easier on each boss is going to rule the world-first achievements :( I don't envy the top-end guilds of that sort of planning.

They could have each person earn the achievement's points only once (in terms of points earned), but tag each towards 10-man rankings or 25-man rankings, for determining kill-dates and the order-of-precedence (ranking) for both formats.

slightlysatan said...

Sadly, my guild has become less hardcore with the last two patches - I USED to be called on to use both specs - feral cat and feral bear, but now I can run just dps (essential dps according to my 10s raid leader) and it's just not as exciting as Ulduar, where role shifts were mandatory for hardmode min-maxing.
Our regular team became disenchanted during ToC, and it's never really reformed.
I do miss the flexible roles, and the excitement of changing up. And I still keep up my tank set 'just in case'.
Csara of Suramar

Hiraun said...

This was a very interesting read, thank you.

While my guild is not 10-man-strict (you are free to PuG 25s if you wish too) we get ranked on Guildox as 10-man-strict due to not many of us having 25-man gear. Since we managed to down the LK on normal a few weeks ago I was in a few TotC-25s to experience how a 25 feels.

Well. One vast difference: you need more situational awareness in a 25. It is fare more challenging tracking 24 people than 9. I raid as healer so that might colour my perception. I have no idea if tanks or dps feel a difference regarding situational awareness in 10 versus 25.

Kae said...

ToC normal is no longer counted against 10-strict, just ToGC and ICC 25's (iirc). It's counted by achievements within the guild :) GuildOx has the details of its criteria for 10-strict written up here, if you're interested.

I've pugged quite a bit in 25s myself, especially VoA. I don't find the situational awareness at all different when healing or DPSing, though tanking can get a bit hectic due to the larger number of people spread out that may have an add on them out of your sight. The only conflicts I have to my situational awareness tend to be along the lines of overwhelming spell effects and more bodies hiding the ground from view, graphically speaking. There may be more people to heal, but it's a different kind of healing: assignments narrow the number you have to keep track of, and there's a larger number of healers to help out. For example, a healer in a 25 may be assigned to one tank, and help out occasionally with others; in a ten, they have to heal both tanks and help with everyone else that happens to take damage or need a cleanse from you. You can't easily ignore the rest of the raid in a ten.

For a druid example, healing in a 25 is, traditionally, quite easy: roll rejuv and WG, and use little else. It's a healing style that is "loleasy" and one Blizz doesn't like for that. 10-man healing is quite a bit different for a resto druid, assuming they aren't forcing their co-healer to shoulder all the burden.

That's my experience with it :)