The hallmark of Cataclysm raiding was the new one instance lockout. You can kill a boss on 10 man or 25 man, but not both (heroic raid-size locking aside). The immediate and obvious question: how are they going to balance these encounters?
The Impossible Task
Their intention was to make the difficulty between the two sizes equal. Anyone with a brain (or a calculator) can see that it’s simply impossible to manage that kind of balance. It’s not to say they haven’t tried. On paper, many of the fights look identical and even in practice, some of the fight mechanics aren’t much different on 10 or 25 man.
We’ll do it like those checkmark lists you see before big football match ups. All of these judgments are based on equal gear and equal skill (“all things being equal” as they say). I’m going to be talking about a lot of raid mechanics. Seek out the usual sources for boss strategy and in-depth ability descriptions, let’s get right to it!
Throne of the Four Winds
Conclave of Wind: Not nearly as exciting as the Concubine of Wind, but an interesting fight nonetheless. Any time the raid is forced to split up in separate rooms/platforms, I give the nod to 25 man. More healing coverage, less touchy on the DPS balance. Advantage: 25 man
Al’Akir: Lots of mechanics in this fight that involve movement and individual responsibility. From running between tornadoes to spreading and staying within your own sector, it all favors a 10 man raid. Healing is slightly easier in the 25 man version, as is often the case, but I have to give this one to 10 man. Advantage: 10 man
Bastion of Twilight
Halfus Wyrmbreaker: This is completely dependent on the combination of drakes you get. If the Storm Rider is active, 25 man has a huge advantage (almost too huge). Now that I think about, even the other drakes are easier to handle as a 25 man raid because you simply have more options available to you. More tanks, more healers to assign, etc. Advantage: 25 Man
Valiona & Theralion: Limp-preventing DPS timer, a little bit of movement in different phases, but quite possibly the easiest encounter in Tier 11. Advantage: Even.
Twilight Ascendant Council: Advantage: 10 Man, all that needs to be said.
Cho’gall: Cho’gall is an interesting fight to look at in terms of raid size. There are some ground targeted things and corrupted blood which require some individual responsibility. Based on my experience and the thoughts of others who have done this fight, the variety provided by a 25 man raid is a big help. You have more things to help interrupt Worship and damage splitting for add control in Phase 1 is always more easily handled by a 25 man raid. Phase 2 is about even, difficulty-wise, with maybe a slight edge given to 10 Man. Advantage: 25 Man
Omnotron Defense System: Lots of different abilities that constantly cycle. All of these abilities go from “meh” to “wow” by adding another 15 players. Things like interrupting, slime kiting, and Lightning Conductor become noticeable in a 25 man setting. Advantage: 10 Man
Magmaw: Magmaw is another tough call. There are some ground effects that will endanger more players on 25 man (not to mention the parasites), but the larger raid probably has an easier time killing the parasites and keeping DPS up while chaining Magmaw. Another boss that is too easy to really analyze at this level. Advantage: Even
Maloriak: This analysis will vary greatly based on raid composition so with that being said I’ll give it to 25 man. AoEing a lot of adds, RSTS that only ever hits one person. The healing is significantly easier under 25% in 25 man. Advantage: 25 Man
Atramedes: Another prototypical “spread out and stay away from the poop” fight. There is less of everything in 10 man, but with the recent nerfs, 25 man doesn’t have too hard of a time. Due to room size and the strategy…Advantage: 10 Man
Chimaeron: A pure healing check. This list is trending towards giving the healing-heavy fights to the 25 man crews and it’s no different here. Advantage: 25 Man
Nefarion: This is the only fight I’ve done no significant progress on, so I can’t really comment. Based on the complexity of the fight it might favor 25 Man, but I don’t have enough personal experience to rate it.
If you’re keeping score at home…
By my count that gives 5 fights to 25 Man, 4 fights to 10 Man, with 2 as a toss-up with 1 undecided. I would say that’s a pretty even balance from top to bottom. My 5000 ft view of Tier 11 shows me a slight edge to 25 man just because many of the fights can make use of so many class mechanics. If you were to take 1 of every class in a single 10 man, you would be able to cover everything in every fight but it isn’t uncommon to have 2 of a certain hybrid class (or even 3 in some cases).
Taking out just one of those (maybe a warlock for healthstone, as an example) could hinder you on a particular fight. If players have to handle mechanics on an independent level, 10 man has an edge.
Twenty-five man raids still incur the logistical challenge of maintaining a large crew but the amount of loot (and extra Valor Points per boss) you receive cannot be discounted.
I’m currently loving the single lockout and what it has done to really improve the outlook of a raid week. I don’t have to get on people to make 10 mans on the weekends, and even if folks have to sit out for some bosses, they aren’t missing a ton of loot/points. Maybe 25 man raiding isn’t dead after all.
Many of you might have waited until after the New Year to start into raiding, and might have a tough time deciding on where to go or what is appropriate. This is my ideal kill order based on difficulty, travel time, and also strat complexity:
1. Halfus Wyrmbreaker
2. Valiona and Theralion
4. Conclave of Wind
5. Omnotron Defense System
8. Ascendant Council
You can flip Council/Chimaeron and Al’akir/Cho’gall and get a list that is just as good. My reason for putting Cho’gall first is because his loot is much better than Al’Akir’s. In any case, Nefarian is a difficult boss that definitely should be saved for last.
Don’t look at what the “Top Guilds” (Top Guilds) have done as a model for your team. Only you will know when you’re truly ready to tackle the hard mode encounters. It will likely take some trial & error with plenty of log digging to determine what needs to improve to take that step over the heroic hump. Don’t fear it, but also don’t waste time on something that needs a little more juice in the gear department.
(Keep in mind you need to complete an instance on normal before opening it’s heroic mode)
Our raid week involves 3 full 25 man raid nights with a 10 man running Monday to try out any new encounters or work out strat kinks for the next raid week. Having that little bit of extra info can mean several attempts with your full raiding crew.
Raid leading is fun, isn’t it?
Obviously this all just my opinion from doing the fights, I’m looking forward to hearing how other people’s raids have been going early in Cataclysm.