In somewhat of an odd coincidence, the day Tobold posts about mini-Naxx is also around the time the topic of raiding was brought up in our vent. We were discussing what made raiding fun for us back in vanilla WoW, and if we could ever go back to WoW raiding (quick answer, no, we are all set with candyland). This got me thinking about what raiding is, and at what point does an instanced dungeon become a raid?
I never considered Upper Black Rock Spire a raid. It was a 15 man instance, but back then a 15 man was small compared to a 40 man raid, and UBRS was rather short compared to MC or BWL. But if you released UBRS today, it would very likely be considered ultra hardcore content.
For one, it requires a key to enter, one that back in the day meant you had to run LBRS multiple times and get a bit lucky with gem drops. You also had to have one member of the guild build the key, and then that member would need to open UBRS for the rest. The instance itself starts off easy, but the final encounter is far tougher than anything before it. It’s also a gear check fight, as no amount of skill can overcome the initial burst of damage from the encounter, or certain unstoppable attacks.
The reason I never considered UBRS a raid was because you either beat it or failed, but you never really ‘worked’ at it. The place was simple enough that success or failure came down to classes, gear, and basic game knowhow. You never switched classes for certain bosses, changed up group makeup, or switched gear. In, out, repeat, that was UBRS for me.
In direct contrast, raiding was a constant challenge at the time. From getting the first two giants in MC down, to the first boss, to finally downing Rag, each night there was a goal, and future raids depended on our success that night. If we failed to clear up to point x, it meant less time working on whatever current encounter gave us trouble. Learning to speed clear trash was important, as a raid could only go for so long, and you only had 7 days before the whole place reset. When we finally had MC on farm, it was balancing that farming with learning BWL, and again once we had BWL on farm and we were working on AQ40 and later Nax. If you had a solid group logged in that night, you went and tackled tougher content. If the B team showed up, you knocked out ‘lesser’ content like MC or BWL to try to gear people up.
Raiding, and being a raid leader, went far beyond watching a youtube video of Curse and managing a DKP mod. If the guild failed to make sufficient progress, members would start to tire, log on less, and your guild goes down the spiral until you collapse. Getting a server first meant a lot of e-fame on that server, and the pool of potential recruits always increased. You had to keep the emo druids away from the razor, feed the lootwhore all-stars enough to keep them happy, pat the healers on the head to make them feel loved, and all the other random crap that you get in /tell. Officer chat was one long bitch list about how our members are a bunch of babies, and what we would do for just a few people who could focus for longer than 10 minutes. At the time, it was a lot of fun, in that odd “I hate you” kind of way. The constant challenge of making progress compared to the rest of the server is what fueled us.
I’m guessing very little of that happens now, with how much more ‘accessible’ raiding is in WotLK. When you down a boss the first night, with fresh 80s, I can’t help but wonder if that’s even considered a raid. That’s the kind of result you get from an instance, not a raid. In an instance you go in, learn the one or two tricks a boss has, and then beat him on the 2nd or 3rd attempt. In a raid, you reach the boss, learn his first phase or trick, and then spend a night or two learning to deal with it. Hopefully by the end of the week, you have each step down, have the people to follow the steps, enough gear to overcome the gear check, and down the boss. It’s far slower, but ultimately more rewarding. Effort/reward and all that, right?
The first clear of MC was a big deal, as was BWL, AQ40, and especially the original Nax. Everyone who raided back then knew about the Four Horsemen fight, knew which guilds were struggling on the fight, and waited to see who would finally overcome it. Aside from mini-Nax being beaten in 3 days, what significance does it have? Clearly it did not take very long, or have any true ‘weed-out’ encounters like Vael was in BWL, or the Twin Emps were in AQ40.
Which returns me to the original question, at which point does an instanced dungeon become a raid? It’s not the number of people, since now a 10 man in considered a raid, and the actual number varies from 10-25. It’s not difficulty, since mini-Nax is reportedly easier than some of the heroic 5 mans in WotLK. It’s not the epic gear the bosses drop, since WotLK ‘shattered’ that definition. So what is raiding now in WoW, or does the definition not even matter, as long as the content is ‘accessible’ to everyone with 1-2 hours a week?