The 10 man race and standings might get a bit less attention here than the 25 man, but that doesn't mean it's any less difficult or that the people raiding are any less dedicated or skilled. So instead of theorising about which is harder or better or more prestigious we thought we'd just talk with top 10 guild Angered (currently residing at the No.7 spot) and see what 10 man raiding is really like and what they think of all this. We'll also have a second interview with the co-GM very soon. (it's here)
Angered is a 10man hardcore raiding guild on the EU realm Zenedar. The guild was originally created in the early months of 2010 with the goals of being a social raiding Swedish guild on the Eonar realm during the last tier of Wrath of the Lich King. When Cataclysm was released the guild wanted to take a more hardcore approach to raiding, unfortunately Eonar wasn't the most populated of realms and becoming a hardcore guild within a single nationality was troublesome. The guild become an international guild communicating in English, and this is where I (Endonyx) joined the guild. I had known the then GM from a previous guild we played together in on Eonar.
After a troublesome T11 due to the poor population on Eonar that involved minimal, if any applications, we decided it would be best to find a new server where the population was higher and there was some competition within the realm. After a process of elimination, we chose Zenedar.
The guild now resides on Zenedar with an 11 man raiding team from England, Sweden, Norway, Denmark & Finland.
I'm Endonyx, I play Warlock and I am the current GM & Raid Leader for Angered. I'm a 22 year old guy from England and I've been a hardcore gamer all my life, originally in FPS's, but more recently have become immersed in the world of MMO's.
You've managed a high finish in the Dragon Soul race, was this something you were specifically aiming for or did it just happen while you were doing your own thing?
The guild's intentions in T13 were definitely to push for a good ranking, I think our minimum level of happiness was Top 20 world. It was always our intention to end the expansion as the leading 10man guild in the world. Unfortunately we didn't obtain that this time round, but I'm still happy with the transformation the guild has made from T11 to T13, and how dedicated the players we have in the guild have been during this tier.
At what point did you realize you were heading for a top 10 spot and did it impact they way you played from then on, considering how close you came to it in Firelands?
I think the point we realised it was going well was when we were close to getting 10man first Blackhorn HC, and then when we did get 10man third, world 6th, we realised we had a shot at the top spots. I don't think anything changed within player mentality, in fact I think it just drove people more. It became more of a reachable objective once we were close to that 10man first Blackhorn.
What was your situation with the LFR exploit, did it impact your guild in any way? Did it impact the 10 man race at all to your knowledge?
The LFR exploit had 0 effect on our guild and as far as I know it didn't impact the 10man race. I might be wrong on that, however. The reason it affected us, and the 10man race so little, if at all, is because LFR was only 25man and it would have been harder for a 10man guild to organise something like that, unless they had 20+ players. If the LFR was around on 10man it might have been a different story.
Let's talk a bit about 10 man raiding then.
There are always discussions about 25 man vs 10 man, which is "better" or "harder" or which means more, but I think we can all agree they are just two different disciplines and each has its own unique challenges. What are your thoughts on that?
This is something we really feel we have a strong understanding of. We definitely agree they're different disciplines and they definitely have unique challenges. With the current format of 10man raiding, it's more about the resources you have for the encounter. Blizzard have thrown a lot of fights in that require near perfect rosters for 10man raiding and that's been the challenge of 10man raiding in Cataclysm. It doesn't come from beating tight enrage timers, or anything like that, it comes from having a roster that can adapt to the differentiation of each fight whilst maximizing what the raid can bring. A perfect example is myself having to play Destruction on Ragnaros HC when it was far from an optimal spec, in order for us to have Replenishment, an extent a 25man guild wouldn't really ever have to go to.
Overall the difficulty from 10m comes from having the roster for everything Blizzard throws at you. We had a roster that consisted of probably about 20-25 390~ ilvl characters this tier and we found that wasn't enough. I mean, good luck killing Zon'ozz/Blackhorn 10HC with more than 2 melee in your raid. Obviously those limitations stick out in 25man raiding, they just seem to be more of a challenge in a 10man environment.
I think the model in Mists of Pandaria is going to be great, scrapping a lot of the raiding buffs/debuffs is going to allow more flexibility in roster in a 10man raiding environment without having to worry too much about whether you have a core buff/debuff such as 5% crit. I also think it will allow developers to give 10man similar challenges that 25man have had. Such as Ultraxion/Baleroc, that no-one can deny were easier on 10man.
What is the 10 man scene like at the moment, with Dragon Soul being relatively over?
The 10man scene is a fairly quiet one. There is some obvious guilds up the top again such as In Extremis, Silent, Hordlinge & some of the Russian guilds. I think the 10man scene doesn't really have a top list of guilds currently, it's an aspect of the game that throughout Cataclysm has changed a lot. The Korean guilds dominated the T11 10man rankings, T12 brought some new faces as well as our own and T13 has done the same again. I think it'll become even more active in Mists of Pandaria with the changes to buffs/debuffs.
How important is class stacking in 10 man? Does it really impact the race as much as on the 25 man side?
Class stacking isn't really as important in 10man as it is in 25man, but you have to have enough alts to cover pretty much everything, just in case. I don't think individual classes stick out as much as they do in a 25man environment, it's more about having a raid that can do what you need it to do, without losing all those buffs/debuffs. Obviously there's unique cases such as the infamous Spine of Deathwing HC. I think I said from the first day of Spine of Deathwing the only time I saw it being killed that week on 10man was with 3 Arcane Mages/Demo Warlock/Elemental Shaman, 2 Tanks + 3 Healers. Something we weren't prepared for, and unfortunately couldn't supply.
How hard is it to keep a good roster for you, obviously it's easier than on the 25 man side, but did you encounter any issues with it?
In terms of finding 10 players to show up to the raid it's probably not half as difficult as finding 25 players that can. In terms of what those 10 players can bring to the raid though, that's another question. I think everyone had at least one 390~ ilvl alt, with some people having more than one. I think our roster of progression viable alts consisted of:
Rogue/Shadow Priest/Cat Druid
Hunter/Ret Paladin/Disc Priest/Shadow Priest
Boomkin/Frost DK/Unholy DK
Fury Warrior/Arms Warrior/Hunter
Tank Druid/Unholy DK/Frost DK
Prot Paladin/Prot Warrior
Holy Paladin/Resto Druid/Disc Priest
Resto Druid/Resto Shaman/Holy Paladin
and we still feel we were under prepared in the alts department. Mists of Pandaria will address a lot of that with the new raiding buffs/debuffs model being introduced, but if the fights in Cataclysm are anything to go by the requirement for a large roster will still be there, just not as much.
What would you say the biggest differences are between 25 and 10 man raiding, whether it's on a community, player or game level?
I think there is still a stigma attached to 10man raiding that has come from Wrath of the Lich King raiding, but 10man is a whole different ball game now in comparison to what it was then. Overall, the major difference has to be the tuning approach. 25man seems to find challenges from everyone pulling 99.99% of their potential DPS or the raid simply wipes due to enrage. 10man seems to find the challenges from being able to take the unusual to a fight to overcome a challenge and still being able to be efficient with that roster. For example Halfus 10HC back in T11: I think it was probably 99.99% recurring improbable (I hate the word impossible) without either an Atonement Priest or 3 tanks. If you took 3 tanks, you more than likely hit enrage. So bottom line was, if you didn't have an Atonement Priest you had to cross your fingers and hope your raid didn't get destroyed in the first few seconds. Luckily we were able to bring 2 Atonement Priests. That's just one of many examples where the fight wasn't difficult because everyone had to do 99.99% of their DPS, but it was difficult becuase you had to bring the unusual to the fight and that affected the rest of your roster's capability.
What is it your guild does differently from others that makes it special?
I'm not so sure what makes our guild stand out from the crowd. We have a lot of people with a lot of gaming experience at very high levels so I think naturally the entirety of the guild understands the requirements to reach the top. I think it's important that everyone is on the same page, if someone in the guild isn't willing to put the effort in to achieving the best then you're going to struggle when they decide they don't value raiding as much as the rest and they want a night off. We discuss a lot of things, we have people theorycrafting all the time. I personally spend a lot of time just reading threads and threads online about everything and anything to do with raiding, getting little ideas etc. We bounce ideas off each other a lot and whilst I take the official raid leading role and make judgement calls within the fights, most tactics come from bouncing ideas off one another.
To what extent do you monitor what other guilds are doing and does it influence you?
Well, I'll be honest. www.wowprogress.com was my most visited website during the entire of progression with probably 50+ refreshes a day. We were monitoring guilds a lot, we were looking at what guilds were killing fights with etc. I wouldn't say it influenced us, but rather made us look at things we hadn't necessarily thought about. At the end of it all though, we tend to just do what works for us. When we had started progressing on Ragnaros HC, every guild in the world was adamant AoEing the Molten Seeds was the only way to go. We couldn't do that, so rather than sit there and wait for it to be nerfed, we worked around it and found a way that worked for us. The same with Madness, we found a way the fight could be solo tanked & rather than making the fight easier, it just gave us more options in terms of roster availability.
How would you rate the difficulty of the instance overall, whether it's compared to Firelands or previous tiers?
From a 10man perspective as a whole T11 is definitely still the hardest tier overall. T13 was fun, I enjoyed it a lot more than T12, in terms of difficulty they were probably about the same.
What about Madness and or Spine, which was the real endboss here and how does it compare with Ragnaros or some of the previous endbosses? Was it worthy of an expansion finisher?
Madness as an endboss was a let down in all honesty. It wasn't on par with Ragnaros and I even said before 4.3 was live, based on the dungeon journal, unless the HP of everything was dramatically reduced, I couldn't see the fight being a challenge. Spine was the real challenge this tier, and mechanically it was probably one of the easiest bosses in the instance, just unfortunately had ridiculous roster requirements. The Madness fight was enjoyable however, one thing that really frustrated me about Ragnaros was the RNG of P4 you could often be struck by, Madness didn't have any of that and it felt great knowing you could overcome what caused the wipe.
How did you feel about the length of the progress race this time around?
We thought this would be a quick race, based on the dungeon journal and the PTR testing we didn't see what could be challenging about the instance as a whole. I dread to think how quick progression would have been over had Spine of Deathwing not been the giant block it was.
How would you improve on the overall raid design that is currently in place? (can be anything from gating, to boss designs, to bugs, to raid sizes and restrictions etc)?
Gating is an annoying system, there's never really a reason to push to kill a boss under gating, because why does it matter what ranking you get on X boss if you can't pull Y boss for another two weeks when 100 other guilds have killed X anyways.
I think Blizzard really need to move away from this whole class stacking thing, it's inevitable one class is going to be superior than another, but the whole Spine thing was just on another level. They could have increased the Amalgamation HP by another 120%, made it require 18 bloods to explode, made the debuff give you 12% reduced damage and make the tendon a 60 second burn with HP that reflected that. That would have probably resulted in the same fight without the need for 50% of your raid consisting of Sub Rogues and Arcane Mages.
Boss design is a difficult one, there's only so many ways you can design an encounter before you're repeating the same thing almost. I think Blizzard do a great job in still making encounters feel unique. Hagara is a fun unique encounter, Madness is different, Spine is different. They did well this tier on providing unique encounters.
Other than a few bugs, Dragon Soul really seemed to be a lot more polished than other tiers, bug wise.
I miss the annoying, but epic things that some of the older raids had. The suppression room in BWL & AQ40 gauntlet, just two epic things I can think of. I think Blizzard really need to push the ball out there, they're toning down trash and making it boring. I mean, no-one enjoys Ultraxion trash, do they? Their current trash model just isn't really working, it just seemed to be more of an inconvenience that meant it took you 10minutes longer to get to the boss.
How do you feel about the first 6 bosses' difficulty, whether it's compared to the last 2 or compared to the first 6 in Firelands?
I would say the first 6 in T12 were on par with the first 6 in T13. I think T13 was definitely more enjoyable though. I loved Yorsahj, so much control over the fight and the ability to control what the boss did (within reason) is a great mechanic and I salute Blizzard for Yorsahj, it's one of the few fights on 10man where you could kill the boss based on your roster, rather than make your roster based on the boss.
What was your favorite boss in the instance, which was the most fun and which do you think was the best designed one?
I loved Yorsahj personally, but I think outside of her Shattered Ice globalling people unexpectadly, Hagara wins my vote purely based on how unique the encounter is in comparison to previous encounters.
How did the instance end up being, bug-wise?
There wasn't really any bugs, there was the odd one or two but they didn't really affect anything. The one two I remember are Zon'ozz orb getting stuck on terrain a lot and the little gnome firefighters on Blackhorn not despawning after some attempts.
What's your overall opinion of DS?
It was fun, it just lacked that epic feeling that the final expansion instance should give you. I think Blizzard focused too much on the story, rather than making sure the encounters reflected the story being told.
What do you think of the progress the game has made since it came out, what were some of the crucial moments in WoW history for you and how did they change the game?
WoW has changed a lot. I think I started playing in October 2006, or 2005. It's been a long time, I forget. I think in all honesty the most crucial change the game has made that has affected myself personally is the transition into making 10m and 25m raiding 'equal' in Cataclysm. I love the 10man raiding aspect, everyone in Angered I know on first name terms and it's great to have everything feel so personal. I feel I can perform better in an environment where everything is so sociable and more tight nit.
What's the funniest whisper you ever got during progress?
Not sure really, I wasn't paying much attention to whispers during progression. I'd get the usual 'get a life' whispers though ofcourse.
Time investment in raiding. Do you think it's basically a necessity to be able to raid almost all day every day now, in order to be competitive in the World First race? What are your thoughts on that (how did it affect your guild, what was it like in Firelands and what will it be like in Dragon Soul, etc etc)?
Oh, it's definitely a necessity, no doubt about it. You don't see any top guilds that raid any less than 5 days a week at the top. I think probably everyone in the top 20 raided 7 days a week during progression. In Firelands, we had just moved to Zenedar the week before Firelands was released and we were just building our roster, getting fresh new faces and never really pushed the first few weeks of progression. In Dragon Soul however, it was planned from the word go that we were going to push in the first two weeks, Dragon Soul came at a bad time (We honestly didn't expect it until early January) but we made it work. A lot of players really proved their dedication in order to raid during progression.
- Raid instances: Black Temple, definitely.
- Boss encounters: I really loved Teron Gorefiend, Illidan fight was awesome too.
- Expansion: TBC, by far.
- Tier set design(s): For Warlock, probably T6 for me.
- New Features (like the PvP system, or flying mounts, or 25 man raids, anything really): I think heirlooms were great. Levelling alts can be tedious and anything that lowers the time it takes is good in my books.
- 5 man dungeons: I enjoyed the Cataclysm 5mans when they were first released, they felt challenging in comparison to the 6minute UK runs I'd been used to in WotLK.
- Class: Warlock, although I love the playstyle of Enhancement Shaman.
- Game(s) aside from WoW: I loved the Halo series, but now I really literally cannot physically wait for Diablo 3. Like, I want it, NOW.
How do you feel about PTR testing?
I feel PTR testing is good, it's important to get the communities feedback on things and I understand that with a lot of variables within the game it's probably a necessity to make sure things run smoothly. In terms of boss testing, I just wish they gave a bit more forward warning and didn't do testing @ 1-2am CET.
Do you think that it really is neccessary, could Blizzard test the stuff internally well enough if they tried properly?
I think boss testing yes, they could. I don't feel they do enough to keep things boss' hidden from the community and a lot of the race is already over before the content is even live. Outside of boss' though I think it's important to have a lot of testing in order to make sure bugs don't go through.
How much of an impact is it (for you) on the real progression race when it starts?
As I said before, a lot of the race is already over since people have done 90% of the easier boss' on PTR. The race would be a lot more enjoyable if people were going into Dragon Soul blind (theoretically).
After all the commotion that accompanied the Dungeon Journal's release, did it really impact the way you prepared for bosses and learned about the fights or was it just a small bonus to the process already in place?
The Dungeon Journal is something I personally disagree with in it's current form. I think they should make the heroic information of the fights only available once a guild on that server has killed that boss on heroic.
The Dungeon Journal was supposedly only there to allow more players to see more content. The players that want to see this more content are, generally speaking behind most guilds in progression, so I can't imagine the aforementioned suggestion would affect them, but it would still keep the mystery and exploration available in raiding. Especially now LFR gives players the possbiility to see all content, I don't see what the Dungeon Journal is there to solve for heroic raiding.
Mists of Pandaria
With the new expansion having been announced and a lot of info spilling out already, what are your thoughts about it overall?
I think it looks great, the first raid that we have information on right now has the potential to be the new Ulduar. Learning the secrets of this new race in a giant palace just shouts Ulduar v2 to me. I'm definitely looking forward to the Warlock changes.
What do you think about the new talent system?
I think it's going to be great. One of the issues with WoW is always class balance, come Mists of Pandaria they're going to have 34 specs in the game, with the current talent design that would be impossible to balance. I like the idea that talents should be about choice. Obviously you're going to have that talent that is 1% better than the other in some cases and they'll be choices that are obvious. As a whole though, they're great. I love the Warlock ones. One of the branches enables us to have a more empowered demon, a second demon for a short period of time, or no demon for personal benefit. On paper, those could all provide the exact same DPS increase, but it's just about what you want to do. You like have an amazing pet? You can take that option. You don't like pets? You can take that option. Choice is nice, especially when it doesn't come at the expense of personal performance.
Will it matter whether the raid instances and bosses are completely new to the lore and not iconic villains from the Warcaft universe, or will it be business as usual?
I think that's one the great things about WoW. The game is so good, so polished, so fluid and so appealing to people from all backgrounds that, within reason, the story soon becomes less important. When you have a game that ticks all the boxes, a good story is just an added bonus. I can't imagine people quitting because some new bad guy is someone we've never heard of before. It would be a pretty predictable story if it just followed the Warcraft 3 story, I think it's great Blizzard are bringing in new lore to the game, it has potential to be really exciting and bring back the mystery that Vanilla WoW had for a lot of players. Raiding wise, it'll just be business as usual.
Casuals and Hard-corers (it's a word), do you think Blizzard are doing a good job of catering to both?
I think the LFR is a great step towards making content more accessible for the less hardcore. Blizzard do a good job in providing content for everyone, when you have 10million+ players, it's going to be hard to please everyone all the time. I think both parties get their 15minutes of fame. I'd love for Mists of Pandaria to take a more 'Wrath of the Lich King' approach on raids outside of heroic content, but that heroic content maintaining the 'Cataclysm'/'TBC' approach.
In closing, do you think we're headed in the right direction in top-end raiding, on Blizzard's side and on the guild's side?
Angered personally learnt a lot this tier. The guild has improved in every tier so far and the guilds intentions are definitely to continue improving and make us a recognised name amongst the top end raiding community.
Blizzards side, I think they're doing a good job, I think they under value their hardcore raiders opinions. We are afterall the minority, but I think our opinions are definitely valid and contrary to popular belief we're not all asking for content that requires everyone in the world to raid 18 hours.