Blizzard announced today some changes to their raiding system, which basically boils down to the following:
  • There will be only one (1) raid lockout per raid instance per week, so if you get saved to a 10-man raid, you cannot then do the same raid with a 25-man group.
  • Heroic mode settings will be determined on a per-boss basis, similar to how Icecrown Citadel currently works (likely too that you will have to complete the entire instance before you can switch it to Heroic).
  • The discrepancy between 10-man and 25-man difficulty levels will be leveled out (this means that you won't end up having a boss that is incredibly easy on 25-man while being a raid killer on 10-man, or vice versa).
  • 10-man and 25-man raid bosses will share a loot table (meaning the 10-man version of a boss will drop the exact same items as the 25-man version of the same boss), however, to compensate, 25-man versions will drop a higher quantity of items.  In addition to 25-mans dropping a higher quantity of loot, they will also drop more badges and more gold.
  • When first entering raid content, there will be many raids with few raid bosses (instead of one raid with 11-15 bosses, we will see 3-4 raids with 4-6 bosses).
  • Raid content will again be gated (meaning you either have to complete a certain bit before progressing, or you have to wait until the additional wings of the instance are released).
  • Entry level raids will be tuned for players in leveling (blue) and crafted items.
With these changes in mind, let's take a look at how they will actually change gameplay:

Since players will only be able to progress through a raid instance once per week, they will have to first make a choice:  do 10-man and have an easier time of getting a group together, possibly sacrificing group cohesiveness or do 25-man, and deal with organizing a larger group, but getting a better chance at the item you want.

If you are in a guild, it will likely be a decision based on the size of your guild.  If you have a guild that is able to field enough people to put together a 25-man raid, it would definitely be in your best interest to do 25-man, simply because you have a better chance at the gear you are after.

Likewise, if you are in a smaller guild, the 10-man version will allow you to still complete the instance without feeling penalized for not doing 25-man content.

However, if you more often participate in Pick Up Groups (pugs), you may be at a disadvantage.  Let's say you are in a guild with 17 active raiders, do you try to pick up the remaining few to make it a 25-man?  Well, what if you cannot tell how good those other 8 players actually are?  If they are poor players, you may only make it through 50% of the content on 25-man, but what if you could have easily made it through 80% of the content on 10-man?  You would have made more progress, but lost out on gear.

This issue could be alleviated by allowing for the ability to switch between 10-man and 25-man modes (similar to switching between normal and heroic modes).  The major problem with doing this is that certain bosses, simply by the nature of the encounter, are going to be easier on 10-man, while others may be easier on 25-man.  So, to stop a raid from switching between the two modes on a whim, I would say a two (2) hour soft reset is required before the switch could be made (if you are not familiar, a soft reset usually takes 1-2 hours of nobody being inside the instance).

Whichever way you choose to raid will be up to you, but there are a few things that this will undoubtedly do:
  1. Reduce the overall amount of time that people are raiding.  This is because you won't have the option of spending 3 hours in 10-man followed by 4 hours in 25-man.
  2. Reduce gear inflation.  One major issue in Wrath of the Lich King was that gear inflated too quickly due to having 3-4 levels of gear per patch (10-man, 10-man heroic, 25-man, 25-man heroic).  Less gear inflation also has the added benefit of having smaller patches, and less time between patches (because fewer game files need to be added/programmed/designed).
  3. Less of a reliance of gear as a definition of skill.  If the gear is more accessible, then you will determine someone's ability by actually playing with them.  This will in turn make add-ons such as GearScore and ElitistGroup both less effective, and more effective at the same time (gear at levels A-B, skill will be indeterminate, but at level D-E, you may be able to say "you know, that guy has some impressive
Also, because bosses will share a loot table between 10-man and 25-man (coupled with the stat changes they are making), properly gearing your character will be more direct.  No more, I need XXX from this boss in 10-man, but YYY from this boss in 25-man.  You will be able to just say, I need XXX from this boss.

With regards to the complaints from the community, I think some people are overreacting a bit to these changes.  Will the changes be the "death of 25-man raiding", absolutely not, Blizzard does want people raiding 25-man content, but they don't have to if that is not their thing.  The idea is that the content is more accessible, not necessarily easier, and because some people equate accessible with easy, they have begun to present themselves in a way that makes them look like drama queens, which is rather unsightly.

Is Blizzard making things easier and less time consuming for the average player? Yes, absolutely.  Are they evolving their game to keep pace with their player base? Very much so.  Are these changes actually harming your gameplay? Umm...probably not.

Personally, I look forward to the day where I don't hear "We should be doing 25-mans so we can get better gear to do 10-mans", when we often don't have people showing up past the first night.  I would rather progress through the content with a smaller group that actually wants to play, learn the fights, and pick up gear along the way.

See you in the Shadows,
Many World of Warcraft players are bored with the overused mechanics (tanks swap at x number of stacks of this debuff), as well as feeling like certain encounters types are too common (like fights with dragons).  With that in mind, Matt over at the Outlandish Podcast, recently requested (as part of a competition to win some interesting in-game prizes) that followers of the podcast come up with their own encounter (or raid) design.

While I will lay out my plans for a specific raid encounter below, I encourage you all to also create a raid encounter of your own, and both submit it to the Outlandish Podcast and if you post it in your blog, put a link in the comments below.  Perhaps as a community, we can create enough unique encounters (or raids) that will keep our interest in the game for years to come.

The Setup
While I understand that people are bored with the fights against dragons, I also understand that dragons in general offer the ability to come up with new and exciting ideas when it comes to encounters.  Also, because I have been fascinated by dragons for a long time, I felt that a "dragon fight" would be an appropriate encounter for an idea, but I also realize that the encounter has to be nothing like other encounters (or like all of them combined).

The Story
Because I was always interested in more of the storyline that could have been when it comes to Nefarian's experiments with the Chromatic Dragonflight, and because we will be returning to Blackrock Mountain (where the experiments were taking place), and we may be seeing the return of these dragons, I would like to see specific encounters with his experimental dragonflight.

The Encounter
The encounter takes place in the Blackwing Corridor, a small instance that requires players to complete it before they can enter Deathwing's Lair (similar to the gated effect of the Icecrown 5-man instances and Blackrock Depths/Molten Core).  In this instance, which is reminiscent of Onyxia's Lair, you are first required to follow down a spiraling tunnel, and kill a series of trash mobs, made up of various species of dragonkin (i.e. whelps, drakonid, dragonspawn, and drakeadon).

When you reach the bottom of the tunnel, you are presented with a long, stone-walled room.  The room is very long, with high ceilings, and five doors on either of the side walls.  Above each door, there is a banner corresponding to each of the dragonflights (red, green, blue, bronze, and black).  At the far end of the room, in the center of the stone wall is a large doorway, with a door on either side.  Above one of the doors is a banner with the color of all five dragonflights, and above the other is a similar, but more translucent banner.  Before the large door is a throne, with two smaller thrones on either side.

As you enter the room, you immediately notice Lady Briana Voracia, a human female, with long hair that sparkles like the stars, dressed in noble attire, sitting in the center throne.  Flanked at her sides are an elf of either race.  The one to the right is a blood elf, who goes by the name Baron Edward Perilion, his hair is iridescent, and shimmers like a rainbow.  The other is a night elf named Lord Byron Seditian; he has long white hair that glows like the moon.

A dialog ensues, with Lady Voracia where she informs you that she cannot allow you to proceed.  As she stops speaking a band dragonkin pour out of each of the doors on the sides of the room.  These are obviously members of the individual dragonflights, but appear corrupted, as if by some strange power.  Amongst the kin, you see every type of dragon under the sun, drakonid, dragonspawn, whelps, and even the occasional drakeadon.

The Lady informs you that, while "The Master" is waiting for his children, there is nothing wrong with a little entertainment, and she instructs the dragonkin to dismantle the ragtag group that approaches her without an invitation.  You immediately begin to be attacked by dragons of every color, unable to determine when the onslaught will end.

As you finish taking care of the last remnants of the dragons, Lord Seditian informs Lady Voracia that he is becoming impatient, and transforms into a massive Twilight Dragon.  His translucent scales remind you of nightfall, and he quickly attacks with ferocity.  During the fight his scales seem to slowly change colors; from the color of the day shifting into nightfall, to the color of midnight, to the golden shade of dawn.

When Seditian eventually falls limply to the ground, a slumber falls over you, and you hear the crackle of lightning combined with the roar of a burning city.  When you awake from your sleep, you see that Lord Perilion has morphed into an large Chromatic Dragon, whose scales flicker in the light like a prism in the sun, and seem to be every color at the same time.  His wings span the width of the room, and his head reaches the vaulted ceiling, he is indeed a massive dragon.

The fight begins, and you soon find that Perilion fights with unmatched malice, he burns you with his engulfing breath and arcane magic is thrown about with ease, the earth quakes as he teleports around the room as if time has no meaning to him, and members of your party to fall into a deep slumber as he flaps his massive wings.  He seems to become more and more agitated as the fight progresses, and slowly moves away from his magical abilities, toward using brute force.

As his body falls to the ground in defeat, he transforms back into his humanoid form, warning the group of the terrors that lay ahead with "The Master".  As he lay on the floor, you see five sparks of life float toward the ceiling.

Seeing the lords fall in battle, Voracia yells to the group to come face her if they are brave enough.  As you reach her, she is joined by a small band of chromatic and twilight dragonkin.  As you dispatch of the lesser dragons, Voracia shifts into a dragon, the likes of which you have never seen before.

Voracia exclaims, "I am the sunlight and the shadows, the sinner and the saint! I am the 'Every Dragon!'" With that, she charges toward the party, rears up on her hind legs and spouts fire toward the ceiling.  As her front claws slam on the ground, the party is thrown to the back of the room by the entrance; you can see now that her size rivals that of the Aspects, with her wings touching both walls, and her spiked tail reaching the other end of the room.

After regrouping, the party engages Voracia, who attacks with lightning speed, and armor melting breath.  She occasionally rears up, casting a spell toward the shadows of the room, where lesser dragons spawn, seemingly out of thin air.  After a point, she rears again on her back legs, and again spouts toward the ceiling, and slams back into the ground, causing the party to once again be thrown toward the back of the room.  The quake causes a rift in the floor to open, out of which spawn elementals of molten flame.

Upon seeing the rift open, she takes flight, and opens a portal toward the back of the room.  As you finish clearing up the elementals, a flock of whelps exits the portal.  Once the whelps exit the portal, the portal closes and she flies toward the opposite end of the room spouting flames at the party.

When she reaches the other side, she begins opening another portal, this one spawns drakonids, who attack very quickly, targeting the weakest amongst you.  When this portal closes, Voracia once again flies toward the other end of the room, spouting flames at the floor as she travels.  She begins opening a third portal.

When the drakonid are taken care of, a drake spawns from the third portal, and Voracia lands.  She instructs this drake to rid her of your presence, turns and starts out the exit on the other end of the room.  The drake flies at you quickly, and attacks you in the center of the room.  While still a drake, the enemy has impressive strength, but due to its limited experience the drake is sloppy, and makes many mistakes that allow you to take advantage.

After a short period fighting the drake, you notice that the ceiling is beginning to cave in behind you, forcing you to kill the drake quickly, and make your way to the exit in pursuit of Voracia.

There is a short hallway once you take the exit, with a small door at the other end.  Upon entering the room, you see Voracia at the ready, but once you take a few steps toward her, a sleep spell is placed on the entire group, at which point, Voracia attacks the party.  Upon being attacked, the members of the party are awakened, and the fight continues.

Voracia uses the abilities of every dragonflight seemingly at random; when she realizes that she may actually lose the fight, she becomes extremely angry, and starts spouting off random spells in every direction, which are amazingly potent, but easily avoidable.

Once Voracia falls in battle, the group is rewarded for their efforts, and a group of representatives from the Wyrmrest Accord appears, and decide to collect a scale from the Broodmother of the Every Dragons for examination.  After examining the Scale of the Every Dragons, Alextrasza informs the group that the scale has magical properties that will allow entrance into Deathwing's Lair.

The Conclusion
That is the end of my idea for a raid encounter, and I hope you enjoyed it.  Please feel free to leave your comments below.  Remember, if you have any ideas for a raid, or encounter, either post them in the comments or post them on your own blog and put a link to it below.  I plan on posting a follow-up to this one eventually, which will include links to the various ideas, as well as possibly combining ideas into full blown raids (but no promises).

See you in the Shadows,