Faction Conundrum: When Mythic+ Players Want to Be Alliance but Can't

The Horde Vs. Alliance faction conflict has been going on as long as Warcraft itself - and not only in the lore. Faction imbalance has been part of WoW since its inception, both in terms of relative power and actual number of players on either side. Early on, this was mostly on a server by server basis, but this quickly spiraled out to some larger trends as players became more performance-minded. For a long time now, the Horde has truly earned its name with its enormous player representation, making any semblance of faction balance a thing of the long-forgotten past. We won't be going into what exactly the many factors for the Horde dominance are (from previously strong racials, the lore, faction fantasy, or just... Blood Elves), however we do have some very interesting data on Mythic+ representation to share with you...and it just might have you seeing the faction imbalance in a different light.

The Tournament Realm Changes Everything

As Battle for Azeroth comes to a close very soon, we've analyzed our Raider.IO data for BfA Mythic+ Season 4, and noticed something very strange. On the live servers, everything seemed in order and, as expected, the Horde to Alliance ratio heavily favored the red team, almost doubling the blue's numbers. However, when we get to the Tournament Realm stats, the "natural order of things" goes out the window.

Live Realms:

*Data points represent the actual number of runs, both completed in time and not.
**Cancelled runs, (i.e. those that exited the dungeons before finishing) are not counted at all.

As the above data shows, the Horde actually had 62.5% more runs that the Alliance did, which indicates a significantly larger player base on the red team. So far, so expected, we all know Horde is much more heavily represented in WoW in general, but this is where things got interesting, as it was the Tournament Realm's turn.

The Tournament Realm

*The runs recorded above were all taken during the Time Trials and actual tournament portions of the Mythic+ Season 4 MDI (hence the small number of runs).
**Players on the TR get to choose not only their race, faction, class etc, but also their gear from the best pieces available.
***This data represents serious competitive players who only pick the best choices available.

The above numbers are quite staggering, with the Alliance having an over 14:1 ratio over the Horde! This clearly indicates that, when given a "clean" choice without any other factors to weigh, Tournament Realm players would choose Alliance 93% of the time. In this competitive-minded environment, as players push for MDI tournament spots, performance is really the only factor, as all other choices such as gear and the available player pool have been removed.

Why Alliance?

Let's look into why Alliance comps are so prevalent on the Tournament Realm and probably would be on live as well, with our own Dratnos sharing his expertise:

Dratnos Explains
The strength of the Alliance faction comes mostly from the powerhouse racial ability Shadowmeld. The next most powerful Mythic+ racials are Stoneform/Fireblood for the Alliance and Arcane Torrent for the Horde - both of which are potent in specific pulls of specific dungeons or against specific affixes, where the power level of Shadowmeld has no ceiling. Particularly in the extremely focused MDI environment on the Tournament Realm, 5 Night Elf compositions are capable of executing several skips per dungeon that can shave whole minutes off of the timer. In the live environment, this utility is somewhat muted for most players, as groups with 5 Night Elves are less common and restrict the group's class options, although even one Shadowmeld can provide very effective skips in almost every dungeon. It's especially worth noting that strategies built around Shadowmeld are hard and require practice, time, and careful coordination, which is a characteristic of almost all teams on the Tournament Realm, but only the top level teams on the live servers.

Here's an example of the ability in action:


Gear and the available player pool are the key factors in faction choice, with availability being the focus of it all. This is why, based on the data provided, we believe that progress-minded Mythic+ players would actually much rather choose Alliance characters, but are prevented from doing so on live realms. As the Tournament Realm removes the need for grinding for the perfect set of gear, it then also removes the requirement for (mostly Mythic) raiding. And since raiding on live often means having to play Horde because of the available player pool, it also frees up your faction choice. Even players managed to find their perfect 5-man Mythic+ group and were all willing to go Alliance, it would still be much harder to find a guild to run the higher difficulty raids with Alliance populations being much lower than Horde. Throughout the expansion, some top Mythic+ players even went to such extremes as faction-switching twice a week in order to raid as Horde and then do M+ as Alliance later in the week. Furthermore, it's usually the top-end, progress-minded players that set the meta, and, despite the Alliance racials being somewhat difficult to use properly, they would soon become the norm among less hardcore groups as well.

And so Horde becomes the default choice, resulting in a significant majority of Mythic+ players representing the red team, despite being the sub-optimal choice. There's been a lot of talk in the community recently about the need for cross-faction PvE activities, and this data seems to underline that need heavily, as it would be very hard to untangle the overall population advantage of the Horde. Even if Blizzard did something extreme and allowed everyone free faction transfers, there would still probably be a Horde advantage (although maybe not quite as big). While we're definitely not going to see cross-faction groups any time soon, it seems a natural place to head towards considering everything and we certainly hope Blizzard also realize that. Another possible solution for the faction imbalance is to head straight to the source: the racials themselves. If each faction had access to the same racials across the different races (with the same class combinations) that would even everything out. But would that take away too much faction identity? Faction balance is certainly not an easy fix, and hopefully Blizzard can find a good solution so that players don't have to wish they could be a different faction for any activity in the game.

How many of you Horde players on live servers would really rather be Alliance/have Alliance racials for Mythic+?

About the Author

Starym is an old-school raider with a wide history of World Firsts under his belt. He is a long-time news writer and interviewer for Icy Veins and formerly Manaflask. Having raided in the Race to World First (RWF) until the end of The Burning Crusade, he has been covering the events since Cataclysm and the RWF has become his greatest passion in WoW. A (Tauren, obviously) Warrior main at heart, when pushed, he will admit to loving Diablo more than WoW and, thus, should be punished.